THE OLD TESTAMENT
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT
INCLUDING THE APOCRYPHA
Griffith A. Hamlin, Th. D
Rev. Griffith A. Hamlin is a native
of Virginia. He received his educa-
tion from four different colleges and
schools of theology. He received his
A.B. degree from Atlantic Christian
College, Wilson, North Carolina; the
M.R.E. from The College of The
Bible, Lexington, Kentucky; Duke
University conferred upon him the
B.D. degree; and the Iliff School of
Theology, Denver, Colorado, the
Th.D. Dr. Hamlin is listed in Who's
Who in the South and Southwest,
and in the Directory of American
Scholars. At present he is serving as
minister of the First Christian Church,
Goldsboro, North Carolina. Although
this is the author's first published
book, he is well-known for the numer-
ous articles he has written which
have appeared in his denominational
THE OLD TESTAMENT
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT
Digitized by the Internet Archive
THE OLD TESTAMENT
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT
INCLUDING THE APOCRYPHA
GRIFFITH A. HAMLIN
THE CHRISTOPHER PUBLISHING HOUSE
^ A i / j '' ' ■ ■ DISCIPLSANA LEGRARY
"■■ ", ,■ ^ ■ ATLANTIC CHRiSTl/AN COLLEGi
hJ^^ ■ WiLSOriN. c.
COPYRIGHT © 1958
BY THE CHRISTOPHER PUBLISHING HOUSE
\ Library of Congress Catalogue Card Number 58-8663
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy 19
I Samuel 28
II Samuel 30
I Kings 32
II Kings 36
I & II Chronicles 39
The Song of Solomon 60
Habakkuk ,. 91
The Books of the Apocrypha 103
- , i ^ . • ,■■•-'
The books of the Old Testament are a widely
varied group. Their contents were written over a period
of more than 1000 years — from 1250 B.C. to about
150 B.C. Consequently, they represent different levels
of social, cultural and religious expression.
The purpose of this book is to serve as a guide for
the better understanding of the intent and content of
the books of the Old Testament. A brief statement
regarding the conditions surrounding each book, and
a concise summary of its contents should help a student
find a fuller appreciation of these books that are an
integral part of the Judao-Christian heritage.
The early Hebrews were the first to find the ri^ht
God; but it took many centuries to acquire the ri^ht
portrait, or concept, of that God. Through the cen-
turies the portrait of God was brought into clearer
focus by the prophets who sought to show that God
was concerned with such things as justice, mercy, right-
eousness and love.
The Old Testament usually is divided Into three
main divisions: Law, Prophets, and Writings. 1. The
books of the Law consist of the first five books —
Genesis through Deuteronomy. They are commonly
known as the Pentateuch. They were canonized —
declared sacred Scripture — about 450 B.C., after
which no more changes were allowed. 2. The Prophetic
Books are subdivided into two groups; (a) the former
prophets — Joshua, Judges, I & II Samuel, I & II
Kings; and (b) the latter prophets — Isaiah, Jeremiah,
Ezekiel and the Book of the Twelve (also known as
the minor prophets, Hosea through Malachi). The
books of the prophets were canonized about 200 B.C.
3. The Writings consist of a miscellany of independent
works. Some are short stories like Ruth and Esther;
some are devotional literature like Psalms; one is
called a prophetic book — Daniel. These books of
the Writings came into popularity after 200 B.C.
For nearly three hundred years these miscellaneous
writings were collected and edited, but not canonized.
It is well to note that Jesus speaks about the "Law
and the Prophets** but never about the "Writings."
Their authority had not yet been established. But
twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.
a council of Jewish leaders was called at Jamnia. At
that time the Writings were declared to be official and
complete. Thus, the canonization of the Old Testa-
ment came to a close in 90 A.D.
The history of the canon is a fascinating study in
itself, and is worthy of more space than this. Such a
detailed study, however, is beyond the purpose and
plan of this work. This book is content to serve as a
guide to students and instructors in an introductory
Bible course, in leadership training schools and similar
groups of people who desire to attempt more than
just a casual reading of the Old Testament. The
questions at the end of each chapter are designed to
lift up the essential elements of the book.
THE OLD TESTAMENT
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT
The word Genesis means ^'the beginning." The
first Chapter of Genesis tells about the creation of
the world; the second chapter, about the creation of
man. No attempt is made to give a scientific explana-
tion as to how God created man and the universe. The
chapters are concerned mainly that God be given
credit for creation. The first words set the theme: "In
the beginning God."
Notice the status which God gives to man. Man is
made in God's image, and is given dominion over
all other creatures on the earth. But man is to re-
member that he is a creature of God, and subject to
God's desires. As the story unfolds he refuses to
obey God, and thereby sins. After generations of
wickedness a great flood covers the earth. Noah her-
oically saves one pair of all living creatures. The
story of the flood is used as a vehicle to describe
God's desire to give man another opportunity to live
up to the high calling which God originally had given
Genesis has a composite authorship. From many
sources, editors selected the narratives which had
the most religious significance and which could be
used to show God's hand in history in a particular
way. Investigation has led to the discovery of at least
four separate collections of narratives in the first five
books of the Bible — commonly called the Penta-
14 THE OLD TESTAMENT
tcuch. The letter "J" is given to that portion which
seems to be written by a Judean. Southern (Judean)
names and places are used most often. "J" is re-
garded as the oldest of the four documents — written
between 950 and 850 B.C. The second is labeled "E"
because of its use of the word Elohim for Jehovah.
It is presumed to have been written around 750 B.C.
by a writer in the Northern kingdom of Israel. The
third documentary source is "D," for Deuteronomy,
believed to have been written about 650 B.C. The
fourth document, "P," was so symbolized because of
the great amount of priestly legislation which it con-
tains. This portion was written after the Babylonian
exile, 450 B.C.
The composition of the Pentateuch is a study with-
in itself for those who desire to pursue it further. It
is sufficient here to recognize the existence of at least
four documents which were combined, in part, and
edited at different periods to emphasize a particular
aspect of Hebrew religion.
Four generations of famous men — Abraham, Isaac,
Jacob, and Joseph — consume the contents from
chapter 12 to the end of the book. Abraham is re-
garded as the spiritual father of the Hebrews. With
his wife, Sarah, and his nephew. Lot, he sets forth to
journey from his native land, Ur of Chaldees, to the
land of Canaan. Abraham's faith is tried on many
occasions, but he remains faithful to his covenant with
God. Probably the most well known test of his faith
is the account of his willingness to offer his son, Isaac,
as a sacrifice (chapter 22).
Son Isaac and his wife, Rebekah, move into the land
of the Philistines to avoid famine. There he prospers
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 15
and is the envy of King Abimelech. After a dispute
over the digging of wells Isaac and Abimelech make a
covenant at Beersheba.
Isaac's son, Jacob, is not a very likeable person in
his earlier years. His trickery of his brother, Esau,
and his deception of his own father places him in an
unfavorable light. But in a dream at Bethel, Jacob has
a vision that becomes a turning point in his life. He
sees a ladder extending from heaven to earth with
angels travelling up and down. God speaks to him and
renews the covenant He had made with Abraham and
Isaac. There follows his courtship and marriage, first
to Leah and then to Rachel, daughters of Laban.
The most complex narrative is that of Joseph, be-
ginning with chapter 37 and continuing through the re-
mainder of the book. It is an explanation, in story
form, of how and why the Hebrews originally got
into Egypt and subsequently into slavery there. Sold
into slavery by his jealous brothers, Joseph dramati-
cally rises from slavery to prominence in Egypt. Cast
into prison upon the false accusations of Potiphar's
wife, Joseph becomes famous for his ability to interpret
dreams. This ability wins him his freedom and a posi-
tion in the Egyptian government. Joseph's brothers
come to Egypt to request grain from the government
storage bins, under the supervision of their long lost
brother. At first concealing his identity, Joseph finally
reveals that he is their brother whom they had sought
to destroy. He forgives their earlier treachery and
persuades them and his father Jacob to move into
Egypt. They settle in the fertile territory of Goshen.
Genesis closes with the death of Joseph and the He-
16 THE OLD TESTAMENT
brews firmly established in their adopted country of
Suggestions for Study
1. Why is Abraham often called the spiriutal father
of the Hebrews?
2. Identify the following persons: Noah, Lot, Esau,
Laban, Rachel, Leah, Benjamin, Potiphar.
3. Identify the following places: Bethel, Canaan, Ur
of Chaldees, Paniel, Machpelah.
4. What does it mean by a composite authorship of
the Pentateuch? Briefly describe the sources.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 17
The plight of the Hebrews in Egypt proved to be
very unpleasant in future years. The narrator explains
it by saying that a new king arose in Egypt who did
not know about Joseph and his good works in the
time of famine. Under the fear of having a subversive
race of people within their land, the Egyptian Pharaoh
put the Hebrews in a condition of servitude.
Moses becomes the central figure through most of
the book. Found in the river by the daughter of
Pharaoh, Moses is raised as a Prince in the court.
However, he is called by God to be the great deliverer
of his people. He is very reluctant to accept the re-
sponsibility. God promises him the help of Aaron as a
spokesman. Also, he is taught to perform certain
miracles as a help in overcoming Pharaoh. His en-
counters with Pharaoh, the plagues sent upon the na-
tion, and his subsequent leadership of the Hebrews
out of Egypt consume a major part of the book. Chap-
ters 7 through 10 describe the various plagues sent
upon Egypt as the Pharaoh refuses to let the Hebrews
go free. Chapters 12 and 13 describe the origin of the
Passover. The angel of death is to destroy the first-born
children in the Egyptian homes. But how will the
angel know which homes are Hebrew, and pass over
them? Each Hebrew home is instructed to slay a lamb
and wipe its blood on the door posts as the sign that
a Hebrew family resides within. The flesh of the lamb
18 THE OLD TESTAMENT
is to be cooked and eaten that same night. Thus, begins
one of the important festivals of the Hebrews.
Miraculously crossing the Red Sea, Moses leads
his people to freedom. Chapter 15 contains the re-
joicing songs of Moses and Miriam as they praise
Jehovah for deliverance. Coming to Mt. Sinai, Moses
hears God call him. He receives the ten commandments
(chapter 20) and a great number of additional rules
and regulations for the conduct of the Hebrews In
their social, civil, moral and religious life, (chapters
21-34). Coming down from the mountain, Moses is
grieved to find that his people have made the Image of
a calf to symbolize the god from whom they seek
help. (Apparently, this is the worship of Baalism which
the Hebrews picked up in Egypt. Baalism was the reli-
gion of fertility, and was symbolized by a bull.) Moses*
indignation at the people's idolatry leads him to burn
the idol, pour the ashes in the river, and then compel
the people to drink of the water. The final chapters
describe the construction of the ark of the covenant and
Questions For Study
1. What is the origin of the Passover?
2. What sin did the Hebrews commit while Moses was
on Mount Sinai?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 19
LEVITICUS, NUMBERS, DEUTERONOMY
The book of Leviticus continues the list of laws
and ordinances which God instructs Moses to give to
the people and to Aaron, the high priest. Such laws
are far too numerous to discuss in detail. They include
a variety of subjects such as vows, obedience, servants,
feasts, the year of Jubilee, leprosy, the day of atone-
ment, the tithe, etc. In future generations, these laws
are to be vigorously upheld by the strict Hebrew
prophets and priests.
The book of Numbers derives its name from the
numbering of all the Hebrews by family and tribe. It
might be regarded as the first census ever taken. It
includes a registration of all young men over twenty
years who are physically fit for military service. Actu-
ally, this census of the people is but a minor portion
of the book, even though its name is derived therefrom.
Perhaps the book best could be described as an effort
to relate what happens to the Israelites between the
experience at Mt. Sinai and their entrance to the land
of Canaan. Chapters 13 and 14 contain the report of
the spies which Moses sent to search the land of
Canaan. The Amalekites in the South, the Hittites,
Jebusites, and Amorites in the mountains, and the
Canaanites along the coast appear to be a formidable
foe. Many of the Hebrews turn against Moses, declar-
ing that they would rather have remained in slavery In
Egypt. Only Joshua speaks encouragingly of their
plight. He tries to inspire and encourage the faltering
20 THE OLD TESTAMENT
people. As punishment for their murmering against
Moses, God declares that none of the present company
of Hebrews will live to enter Canaan with the excep-
tion of Joshua and Caleb (chapter 14). Chapter 33
reviews Israel's route from Egypt to Canaan. Chapters
34 and 35 fix certain boundaries for each Hebrew tribe.
Also, there is selected certain cities for the Levites and
The book of Deuteronomy has the distinction of be-
ing the first book accepted as Holy Scripture. Yet, the
book largely Is a reiteration of some important experi-
ences of the past. For example, In the fifth chapter
there Is repeated the ten commandments. From chapter
6 through 30 Moses continues to repeat many laws and
ordinances and exhort the people to obedience. God
allows Moses to view the promised land from atop Mt.
PIsgah. There he dies, and Is burled in the valley of
Moab. Leadership of the Hebrews then passes to
Joshua, the son of Nun.
The importance of Deuteronomy is enhanced by
the fact that It Is the "Book of the law" which King
Joslah finds in the temple in 621 B. C. He uses that
book as the basis for a sweeping reform in the kingdom,
based upon a strict observance of the laws of Moses.
Thus, Deuteronomy might be regarded as the first
book accepted as Holy Scripture. This reformation of
Joslah is discussed more fully in the section on the book
Questions for Study
1. What was contained In the Ark of the Covenant?
2. What was the report from the spies sent to Can-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 21
3. Identify the following people: Jethro, Miriam,
4. Identify the following places : Mt. Sinai, Mt. Nebo.
5. What Is the meaning of the word Deuteronomy?
6. What Is the Importance of Deuteronomy for King
JosiahIn621 B. C?
22 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The book of Joshua provides the sequel to the
pentateuch narratives described previously. Because of
its close literary kinship with the pentateuch, it often
Is classified with It from a literary point of view there-
by forming a Hexateuch. The J.E.D. and P. sources
are evident In this book even as they are in the first five.
Another way to classify It Is as one of the former
prophets, viz. Joshua, Judges, Samuel (I&II), Kings
(I&II) . The events It describes take place around 1250-
1225 B. C.
With the death of Moses, Joshua becomes the leader
of the Hebrews. The opening verses of the book nar-
rate God's command to Joshua to cross the Jordan
river and enter the promised land. Spies are sent Into
Jericho and are hidden by Rahab. At the appointed
time, Joshua gives orders for the priests to lead the
way, carrying the Ark of the Covenant with them. The
people are instructed to follow at a given distance
behind the Ark. The river miraculously opens when
the Ark enters the water, and the people cross safely.
Twelve stones are piled up in the middle of the river
bed as a memorial to the miraculous crossing. The city
of Jericho is captured amidst the shouts and noise of
the trumpets. There are given two different descrip-
tions of the capture of the city. The Hebrews are within
the borders of Canaan I There still remains the task
of conquering the remainder of the territory and es-
tablishing homes. Chapter 9 describes the trick which
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 23
the Gibeonites sought to play on Israel. Their treachery
Is discovered, and they are punished. In chapter 10 is
the familiar account of Joshua commanding the sun
and moon to stand still while the Hebrews defeat the
Amorltes. Joshua and his army continue to be victori-
ous until the whole land is subdued. Each Hebrew tribe
Is alloted a portion of the conquered land. Chapters
13 through 21 define the territory alloted to each tribe.
Stricken In age, Joshua gathers all the tribes to
Shechem and gives his farewell address (chapter 24).
He narrates God's leadership since the days of Abra-
ham, and urges the people to put away all foreign gods
and serve only Jehovah. The book closes with the death
and burial of Joshua and Eleazer, the priest.
Questions for Study
1. What preparation did Joshua make for crossing
2. Describe the memorial erected to the crossing of
3. What did the Gibeonites do that aroused Joshua's
4. What does It mean by cities of refuge?
5. What was the main theme of Joshua's farewell
24 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The Book of Judges is a history of the period from
Joshua to Samuel. The events described are during
the 12th and 11th centuries B.C. Chapter two de-
clares that in the generation after Joshua the Hebrews
did not respect God nor the great works He had done
for them. The narrator discloses that they forsook
the God of their fathers, and began following Baal
and other gods that were worshiped by the neighbor-
ing peoples. As a result, he declares that God is punish-
ing them through the warfare with the Canaanites.
Deborah and Barak succeed to some degree in hold-
ing back the enemy. Gideon proves himself to be ac-
ceptable to God, and is given victory over the Midian-
ites (chapter 7). He destroys the altar of Baal which
had been built by his own father (6:25-32). The peo-
ple of Israel plead with Gideon to become their ruler,
but he refuses. There follows a great number of men
who seek the position of ruler. After Gideon's death
his son Abimelech goes to Shechem to his mother's
relatives, and enlists their support in making him
king (chapter 9). The prophet Jothan hears about
his plans, and tells the parable about the trees that
desired a king over them. The Shechemites soon quarrel
with Abimelech. He destroys Shechem, and then is
Of all the judges that rule Israel, probably the
most familiar is Samson (chapters 14-16). His great
strength is evidenced by his slaying a lion. His enemies
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 25
seek to find the secret of his strength. Delilah makes
three unsuccessful efforts to trick him into telling his
secret. Finally, she learns from him that his long
hair is the secret of his strength. His hair cut short
by Delilah, Samson becomes weak and is captured. He
is imprisoned and his eyes put out. In due time his
hair returns to full growth, and his strength returns.
On trial he pulls down the pillars, killing himself and
The book closes with the statement that since there
was no king in Israel every man did what was right in
his own eyes. Among the other judges listed in the
book are Othniel, Deborah, Tola, Jair, Elon, Abdon,
Questions for Study
1 . What were Gideon's accomplishments ?
2. What was Jothan's parable? What was its pur-
3. What was Samson's riddle? Its meaning?
4. Identify the following : Abimelech, Jephthah's vow,
Delilah, Shechem, Gibeah.
26 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The story of Ruth is a welcome change from the
warfare and bloodshed that surrounds it in other
books of the Bible. The book of Ruth is like an Oasis
in a dry and thirsty land. All unpleasant traits are eli-
minated. Even the religious faith is devoid of all cere-
monies and doctrines — so different from the books
of the Law, with their meticulous ritual.
The setting of the story is in the days of the Judges.
Elimelech, his wife, Naomi, and their two sons,
Mahlon and Chilion move from Bethlehem into the
neighboring country of Moab to escape famine. There
the two sons marry two Moabite women — Orpah and
Ruth. Shortly thereafter both boys die and also their
father, Elimelech. Only Naomi and her two daugh-
ters-in-law are left. The famine subsides in her home
country and Naomi declares that she must return to
Bethlehem. She urges Orpah and Ruth to remain in
their own country of Moab and begin life anew. Orpah
remains but Ruth declares that she will return to Beth-
lehem with her mother-in-law. "Intreat me not to
leave thee . . . for whither thou goest I will go . . .Thy
people shall be my people, and thy God my God:
where thou diest I will die, and there will I be buried"
(1 :16). So, Ruth and Naomi return to Bethlehem.
In Bethlehem it is the season of harvest. Ruth goes
to work in the field of Boaz, a wealthy man who also
is a relative of Naomi's deceased husband. Upon learn-
ing the true identity of Ruth, Boaz makes an effort to
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 27
ease her work (2:9-16). Aft*r a brief love affair, as-
sisted by Naomi, Boaz purchases from a closer kins-
man of Elimelecli the right to be the support of Naomi,
and Ruth. Boaz and Ruth are married. The closing
verses trace their descendants through three genera-
tions. It is shown that Boaz and Ruth are the great
grandparents of David, Israel's most famous and popu-
The writing of this story takes place between 450
and 250 B.C. In days of strong feeling against foreign
marriages this story dares to suggest that even the il-
lustrious King David had a non Jewish woman in his
close ancestry. The Book of Ruth belongs to the third
division of the Old Testament called the Writings.
Questions for Study
1. What is the purpose of the story of Ruth?
2. Why did Boaz consult a closer kinsman of the
28 THE OLD TESTAMENT
This book opens with the account of the birth of
Samuel, son of Elkanah and Hannah. In his infancy he
is taken to the temple at Shiloh and dedicated to the
Lord in the presence of Eli the priest. On becoming
a young man he is called of God to be a prophet. He
also is a judge, and leads the Hebrews to victory over
In contrast to the righteousness of Samuel, Chapter
8 declares that the sons of Samuel are perverse and
dishonest judges. The people request Samuel to give
them a king like the other nations have. At first he re-
fuses their demand; later he obeys their wish but warns
them of the danger of establishing a kingdom. The
subsequent meeting of Samuel and Saul, and his anoint-
ing Saul as the first king of Israel, is one of the better
known narratives in the book (chapters 9 and 10).
Thus, the last of the judges anoints the first of the
Saul is described by the narrator as being far from
perfect. Seeing his open sins, Samuel finally tells Saul
that God no longer finds him acceptable as king, and
that another ruler must take his place ( chapter 16). Ac-
cordingly, God instructs Samuel to go to Bethlehem to
the house of Jesse, and there he is to select a new
king from among Jesse's sons. David is selected and
anointed by Samuel. It is some time, however, until
his kingship officially is proclaimed by the people.
In the meantime he shows his strength and courage as
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 29
a member of Saul's army, and in other ways attaches
himself more closely to the court of King Saul.
Saul becomes more and more jealous of David's
popularity with the people. David is befriended by
Saul's son, Jonathan, who warns him of his father's
intention to kill him (chapters 18-20). The friendship
of the two men, David and Jonathan, is one of loyalty
that is unsurpassed in the Old Testament. David mar-
ries Saul's daughter, Michal, and Saul's fury further
is Increased. Michal discovers her father's plot to kill
her husband, and she helps him to escape from the
city. David now is an outlaw and Is hunted by King
Saul. David is cunning, and more than once is in a
position to kill Saul, but he spares his life. In despair
Saul goes to a witch to learn his future. He askes
her for a message from the deceased prophet Samuel
who made him king in the beginning. Saul is told that
he is to perish, and that his kingdom is to be given to
David (chapter 28). The book closes with the death
of Saul and three of his sons.
Questions for Study
1. What part did Samuel play in the selection of
Israel's first two kings?
2. For what two reasons did the people request a
king to be made their ruler?
3. Describe the friendship between Jonathan and
4. What message did the witch of Endor give to
5. Identify the following: Elkanah, Hannah, Eli,
30 THE OLD TESTAMENT
David, the outlaw, grieves at the death of Saul and
Jonathan. He is told by God to go to Hebron, in
Judah, and there be crowned king. In the northern
tribes of Israel, however, Ishbosheth, son of Saul, is
king. Ishbosheth Is slain, and David becomes king of
Israel and Judah (chapter 4). For the first time the
kingdom is united under one king. He moves his place
of residence from Hebron to Jerusalem, thus beginning
the custom of making Jerusalem the capital city.
David succeeds In unifying the kingdom and con-
quering hostile neighbors. He shows kindness to the
lame Mephlbosheth, son of Jonathan, by returning
to him his father's possessions and also letting him
dwell In the king's palace (chapter 9). However,
David is not all kindness. His sin of taking Bathsheba
for his wife, and having her husband slain, is one of
the more sordid stories of his life (Chapter 11).
Nathan's parable of the poor man who possessed one
ewe lamb brings self rebuke to David. Even though
deeply penitent, he leiarns that he must reap the
bitter fruit of his wickedness; namely, that there is
to be rebellion and bloodshed within his immediate
family. Events soon happen as predicted by Nathan.
David's son, Absalom, rebels against his father and
conquers Jerusalem (chapter 16). Within a few
months Absalom is killed in battle, and David returns
to the city (chapter 19). A registration of all males
is ordered by David. God shows displeasure with the
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 31
registration, and punishes David by sending plagues
upon the land. The book closes with David purchas-
ing a threshing floor and oxen which he uses as a
place of worship to stay the hand of God from bring-
ing more plagues upon Israel.
Questions for Study
1. Describe David's rise from king of Judah to king
of Judah and Israel.
2. How was David convicted of his sin against Uriah?
What consequences resulted?
3. Identify: Ishbosheth, Mephibosheth, Joab, Abner,
32 THE OLD TESTAMENT
When David becomes old and broken in health, his
throne is usurped by Adonljah. In reprisal, the
prophet Nathan and Bathsheba prevail upon David
to proclaim Solomon as the rightful king. David dies
shortly thereafter, and Solomon rules in his stead.
One of Solomon's first acts as king is to slay Adonijah,
Joab and Shimei, and to banish the priest Abiathar in
retaliation for their plot to usurp the throne of his
father (chapter 2).
Solomon's prayer to God for an understanding heart
(chapter 3) is one of the familiar events in his early
life. Because he seeks wisdom more than wealth the
Lord tells him that wisdom and wealth shall be his. A
demonstration of his wisdom immediately follows.
Two women claiming the same child ask Solomon to
decide which is the real mother. Calling for his sword
he threatens to cut the child in half. One of the
women pleads for the child's life to be spared. Solomon
declares her to be the rightful mother. A list of the
provincial governors under Solomon's rule is found in
Chapter 4, followed by the building and dedication
of the temple (chapters 5 through 9).
In Chapter 11 the narrator declares that Solomon
has taken many foreign wives who remain devotees
of the gods of their country. Because Solomon builds
shrines for his wives to worship their pagan gods the
Lord tells Solomon that he has broken his covenant.
As a result his kingdom is to be divided at his death.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 33
From that time, the story of the Kings Is full of in-
trigue and bloodshed. Jeroboam is told by the prophet
Ahijah that he is to become the new king. Hearing of
the plot, Solomon seeks to slay Jeroboam, but he
escapes into Egypt where he remains until after
Upon Solomon's death, his son, Rehoboam ascends
the throne. Jeroboam returns from Egypt and joins
with a group of people who call upon King Rehoboam
requesting that he make their burdens lighter than
they were under the reign of his father, Solomon. The
narrator declares that the older men of his court
urge him to accept the petition of the people, but
the younger men of his court urge him to reject their
pleas. Upon his refusal of their plea, ten Northern
tribes revolt and make Jeroboam their king with his
capital in Shechem (chapter 12). They become known
as Israel. The tribe of Judah remains under Rehoboam,
with headquarters in Jerusalem. Such is the beginning
of the division of the kingdom which is to remain
divided for several centuries, finally resulting in the
capture of both groups by foreign powers.
Jeroboam realizes that he must overcome a religious
and sociological disadvantage in his rule over the
Northern tribes (Israel). Every year good Jews from
all the tribes journey to Jerusalem to make sacrifice
in the temple. Jeroboam realizes that if such practice
continues, his subjects will mingle and mix with the
people of Jerusalem (and the Southern kingdom)
every year, perhaps causing them to give back their
allegiance to Rehoboam (12:27). Accordingly, Jero-
boam makes two shrines — one in Dan, another
in Bethel — and encourages his people to make
34 THE OLD TESTAMENT
their yearly sacrifice in either of those two places in-
stead of taking the long trip to Jerusalem. The nar-
rator declares that this act is a sin, and that Jeroboam
never is to escape from its consequences. A further
evidence of God's displeasure with Jeroboam is seen
in the account of his hand becoming withered when he
seeks to arrest a prophet from Judah who proclaims
that his illegal altars will be burned, and the ashes
scattered (chapter 13). Another illustration of God's
displeasure with Jeroboam is portrayed in the death
of his son, Abijah. At his illness his mother goes to
the prophet Ahijah for advice. (Ahijah is the prophet
who originally declared Jeroboam king). Now, how-
ever, Ahijah declares that Jeroboam no longer is
pleasing to God, and that his son is to die immediately
upon the return of the mother. Twenty two years is
given as the length of Jeroboam's reign. At his death
he is succeeded by his son Nadab who rules for two
In the Southern kingdom of Judah, Rehoboam
reigns for 17 years. He is succeeded by his son Abijah
(Abijam) for two years. The next king, Asa, rules the
longest term of any — 38 years. He is followed by his
son, Jehoshaphat. Both the Northern and Southern
kingdoms are plagued by a series of kings for a shorter
or longer duration. The North has 19 kings during its
existence of 250 years. The South (Judah) has 20 kings
in its 390 years. During some of that time the two king-
doms are at war with each other.
In the North, the sixth king, Omri, is credited with
building the city of Samaria and moving the capital to
it from Shechem. He is followed by Ahab who rules
for 22 years. Ahab's reign is full of intrigue and blood-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 3S
shed. It is during this period that the prophet Elijah
has his encounter with Ahab and Jezebel, and with the
priests of Baal on Mt. Carmel (chapters 18, 19). Ahab
is followed by his son, Ahazlah.
The Southern kingdom has longer reigns during the
corresponding period. Asa's 38 years Is followed by
Jehoshaphat's 25 years. He Is followed by Jehoram
(Joram) for 4 years.
Questions for Study
1. What led to the division of the kingdom shortly
after Solomon's death?
2. What is given as Jeroboam's motive In building
shrines at Dan and Bethel?
3. Describe the encounter between Elijah and the
priests of Baal.
4. Identify: Jeroboam, Rehoboam, Asa, Jehoshaphat,
36 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The second book of Kings opens with the account
of the injury and death of Ahaziah, king of Israel. He
is followed by his brother, Jehoram. (It is very con-
fusing to note that at the same time the king of Judah
also was Jehoram. Many similarities of names in the
two kingdoms make it necessary to examine the con-
text closely in order to identify the person whose name
is listed). Beginning with chapter 4, the prophet
Elisha is a central character. Several miracles are at-
tributed to him; namely, increasing the oil supply of
a widow, saving the life of a child, feeding one hun-
dred men with twenty loaves, healing Naaman's lepro-
sy, and making an ax head float on water.
In the southern kingdom, Jehoram succeeds his
father, Jehoshaphat. His wife is the daughter of Ahab,
the late king of the Northern tribe (8:18). He is
succeeded by Ahaziah (Jehoahaz) who rules for 1
year. During that short term he succeeds in uniting
his army with that of the northern king (Jehoram)
in war against the Syrians under the leadership of king
Hazael. The prophet Elisha anoints Jehu king of the
northern kingdom. He slays both king Jehoram in the
North and king Ahaziah in the South. Through crafti-
ness Jehu has Ahab's 70 sons beheaded — thus ending
a threat to his power. Then he slays the priests and
worshippers of Baal (chapter 10). After 28 years,
Jehu is succeeded by Jehoahaz. For the remaining hun-
dred years' existence of the northern kingdom, nine
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 37
kings reign — finally ending with its capture by the
Assyrians in 722 B.C.
In the south, with the slaying of King Ahaziah by
Jehu, Ahaziah's mother, Athaliah, reigns as queen of
Judah for 6 years. She is overthrown and her grand-
son, 7 year old Jehoash ( Joash) rules. For forty years
he rules in what is described as a good reign (chapter
11). He is portrayed as desiring peace at any price.
When the king of Syria begins to make war against
Jerusalem Jehoash turns him back by giving him much
of the gold and jewels in the palace. At his death his
son Amaziah rules for 28 years. Amaziah is followed
by Azariah (Uzziah, the close friend of the prophet
Isaiah), who, in turn is followed by Jotham, Ahaz and
It is during Hezekiah's reign in Judah that the As-
syrians rise to prominence and capture the Northern
kingdom of Israel under king Hoshea in 722 B.C.
In chapter 17 the narrator describes the sins of the
people which led to their capture. Hezekiah, in the
South, is described as a wise king, reigning for 28 years
(chapter 18). He is succeeded by Manasseh who re-
opens the altars of Baal, and is described as a wicked
king. He is followed by Ammon who is slain, and is
followed by Josiah. It is during Josiah's reign that the
temple is repaired and the "Book of the Law" dis-
covered and made a guide to strict reforms in the king-
dom. (The prophet Isaiah is one of Josiah's support-
ers in his reform movement). Killed in battle against
the Egyptians at Megiddo, Josiah is succeeded by his
son Jehoahaz (or Shallum) who reigns only three
months (chapter 23). By this time the Egyptian phar-
aoh controlled Judah as a vassel state. Consequently
the pharaoh replaces Jehoahaz with Jehoiakim who is
38 THE OLD TESTAMENT
willing to give gold and silver to Egypt. At his death
11 years later, his son, Jehoiachin (or Jeconiah) reigns
Babylon now has come to be stronger than Assyria,
and is seen as the mortal enemy of Judah. In 597 B.C.
King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon carries away all
the strongest men and women from Jerusalem to Bab-
ylon. King Jehoiachin is among them. A puppet king,
Zedekiah, is put on the throne in Jerusalem (chapter
24) . Zedekiah is said to be the uncle of King Nebuchad-
nezzar. Soon he rebels against Babylon. In reprisal
the Babylonians capture and destroy Jerusalem in 586
B.C. taking to Babylon a large number of people and
wealth — This is known as the Babylonian Captivity of
the Jews — or Exile.
Questions for Study
1. Describe the cure of Naaman's leprosy.
2. What was the reason for the conflict between Elijah
3. Describe events immediately prior to Israel's cap-
4. Describe Joslah's reform.
5. Identify the following: Elisha, Hazael, Jehu,
Ahab, Hoshea, Zedekiah, Exile.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 39
I & II CHRONICLES
The two books of Chronicles are a repetition of
selected events that take place before the fall of
Jerusalem In 586 B.C. Particular attention Is given to
the many kings who rule both Israel and Judah. The
Books are among the less popular in the Bible. A
repetition of several centuries of Intrigue and history
is not of great interest to many people. The useful-
ness of these books is in the point of view with which
the writer regards history, and the many historical
details which he recounts.
Beginning with I Chronicles, chapters 1 through 9
trace the geneology of the Hebrews through each of
the twelve tribes. Chapter 10 through the remainder
of the book gives a brief resume of the conquests and
death of David. It mostly is a repetition of events
found in II Samuel and I Kings. The chronicler writes
from the standpoint of the Southern Kingdom. His
opinion about the North, therefore, Is prejudiced.
In II Chronicles, chapters 1 through 9 reiterate
the reign of King Solomon. Chapters 10 through the re-
mainder of the book repeat the reigns of the many
kings in both the Southern and Northern kingdoms,
closing with the fall of Jerusalem In 586. The closing
two verses skip to a generation later when Cyrus, King
of Persia, is ruler of the Jews. He declares that God
has given him world dominion, and that now God has
charged him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. (These
40 THE OLD TESTAMENT
verses are repeated in the next book, Ezra, and the
story of Ezra continues from that point.)
Questions for Study
1. What is the nature of the contents of Chronicles?
. 2. Why are these books of little interest to most
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 41
In earliest times Ezra and Nehemiah were included
under the one title of Ezra. It was the historian
Jerome who first used the name ''Nehemiah" for
that portion of the volume in which he is the central
figure. In the Hebrew Bible the two books remained
as one until 1448 A.D.
The author of Ezra, as well as of Nehemiah, is the
same anonymous person who wrote the Chronicles.
Since he is so greatly concerned about the temple it
is assumed that he is a priest or levite. The books of
Ezra-Nehemiah are sequels to the Chronicles. They
describe what took place during the hundred years
from the time Cyrus allowed the Jewish Exiles to re-
turn (538 B.C.) to Nehemiah's second visit to Jeru-
salem (432 B.C.). Because of the drama and the per-
sonal religious interests, the books of Ezra and Ne-
hemiah are far more popular than the books of
Chronicles by the same author.
The story of Ezra opens in the first year that Cyrus
is king of Persia. Persia has risen to prominence and
has captured the Babylonians who, previously, had
captured the Jews. Now the Jews are under Persian
rule. But Cyrus declares that he has been instructed
by the Lord to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem which
had been destroyed by the Babylonian, Nebuchadnez-
zar, in 586 B.C. He calls for volunteers among the
Hebrews to return to Jerusalem and build the temple.
He even arranges for them to take the gold and silver
42 THE OLD TESTAMENT
vessels which had been captured by the Babylonians.
Chapter 2 gives a list of the leading Hebrews in many
families who were given permission to return to Jeru-
salem. This is an important date in Hebrew history.
But all is not to be smooth sailing. The Samaritans
plot to stop them from building. They send a letter
to king Artaxerxes stating that if he would examine
the records closely he would find that Jerusalem always
has been a rebellious city. Therefore, it would be to
his advantage to command all work to cease, and the
city left in ruins. Artaxerxes accepts the suggestion and
orders all work stopped (4:24). Soon after Darius
ascends the throne the Hebrews request him to examine
the records to find the original decree of Cyrus, allow-
ing them to rebuild the temple (Chapter 5). Darius
complies, finds the decree and grants permission for
work to be resumed. The temple is completed. The
feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread are held
amid great rejoicing.
Ezra is introduced in Chapter 7 for the first time. He
desires to return to Jerusalem and assist in temple
worship. Artaxerxes grants him permission to return,
along with any priest, levite, and devout Hebrews who
wish to return to Jerusalem. Arriving in Jerusalem,
Ezra is dismayed to learn that so many of the Hebrews
have married foreign wives. He goes into deep mourn-
ing, and confesses before God the sins of the people.
Finally, Ezra calls for all Hebrews to assemble in Jeru-
salem. There he charges them with their sin against
God in taking foreign wives (10:10). He commands
them to give up their foreign wives immediately. The
last half of the chapter lists the priests and levites
who gave up their foreign wives and their children.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 43
Questions for Study
1. What is the political condition of the Hebrews at
the beginning of Ezra?
2. With what opposition did the Hebrews meet in
their attempt to rebuild the temple?
3. How did they finally get permission to resume
4. What sin did Ezra oppose so severely among the
Jews? What was the outcome?
44 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Like the book of Ezra, this book opens in the court
of the Persian king Artaxerxes where Nehemiah is a
cupbearer. Nehemiah is saddened to learn from a
traveler that Jerusalem is in ruins. The king notices
his sadness and inquires the reason. He grants Ne-
hemiah authority to return to Jerusalem and to super-
vise the rebuilding of the walls (2:9).
But all is not smooth sailing in the building program.
Sanballet, governor of Samaria, begins to ridicule the
Jews' efforts to restore the walls. "Will they revive
the stones out of the heaps of the rubbish which are
burned?" he asks (4:2). The determination and *'will
to work" of the Hebrews is more than Sanballet an-
ticipates. The wall is in sight of completion. Sanballet
and the rulers of other neighboring principalities be-
come angry with Nehemiah's success (4:7). With the
imminent threat of force to prevent their continued
work, Nehemiah establishes an armed guard around
the wall to protect the workmen. An internal economic
crisis adds a burden to Nehemiah. He solves the eco-
nomic problem (5:6-13), and the work on the wall
There follows a shrewd psychological attack upon
Nehemiah by Sanballet and his cohorts. First they
try to call him away for a private "conference", but
he realizes that they really seek to injure or kill him.
The enraged Sanballet then issues an open letter charg-
ing sedition against Nehemiah and the Jewish leaders.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 45
Nehemlah is accused of setting up a monarchy in Jeru-
salem, with himself as king, and with prophets pro-
claiming him as such (6:5-7). Such a charge was an
attempt to stir up the Persian ruler against Nehemiah.
As one last attempt to destroy? Nehemiah, Sanballet and
Tobiah bribe a friend of Nehemiah to urge him to flee
into the temple. Such an act possibly could have been
*'used" to charge him with blasphemy against the tem-
ple. Nehemiah refuses to be bribed. Thus, every subtle
attempt of his enemies fails, and the wall is completed.
The second half of the book — beginning with
chapter 7 — describes the reorganizing and reform-
ing of Jerusalem. With the physical equipment re-
stored to some extent, Nehemiah now turns his atten-
tion to the spiritual side of life. After listing the
names of all the families who returned to Jerusalem,
the narrator describes the assembly of all the people
in Jerusalem while the law was read aloud by Ezra
the Scribe. There follows the Feast of the Tabernacle
in which the Hebrews gather in small groups all over
the city to study the Law and make sacrifices.
Civic and religious reforms occupy chapter 10.
Included are such things as duties of priests, levites,
and laymen; mixed marriages, temple tax, contribu-
tions and tithes. Chapter 1 1 is concerned with a list
and description of the repopulation of Jerusalem. The
book closes (chapter 13) with reforms advocated
by Nehemiah — such as the expulsion of Tobiah, Sab-
bath Reforms, and mixed marriages. This seems to
have been a second visit for Nehemiah to Jerusalem.
46 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. What is the reason for Nehemiah's sadness in the
beginning of the story?
2. What was the task that Nehemiah was authorized
to complete in Jerusalem?
3. What difficulties did Nehemiah encounter in Jeru-
salem in his work?
4. Identify: Sanballet, Tobiah, Artaxerxes.
5. What reforms did Nehemiah attempt?
6. When did the Jews return from Babylon to Jeru-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 47
The book of Esther is unique. It contains no refer-
ences to God nor any explicit religious teaching. These
peculiarities are understood when its purpose is re-
vealed; namely, to give an historical reason for the
existence and continuation of the Jewish Feast of
Purim, which is not authorized by the Law of Moses.
The vehicle for this authorization is a story which has
its setting during the period that the Jews were under
The story opens with a great feast for his nobles
given by King Ahasuerus. When the subject of beau-
tiful women comes up, King Ahasuerus sends for his
wife, Vashti, to stand before the men so that they
might admire her beauty. Vashti refuses to obey
(1:12). The king is quite angry, and so are the princes.
They tell the king that his wife's disobedience to him
could have grave repercussions throughout the em-
pire; namely, that all other wives might decide to fol-
low the example of Vashti and become disobedient to
their husbands I Ahasuerus takes steps to forestall any
such action by the women of the land. He issues a de-
cree that every man shall be the ruler in his own house
With Vashti banished from the palace, Ahasuerus
needs a new queen. Accordingly, he orders beauty con-
tests held in all provinces, the winners of which are to
come before him for the final selection. Among the
contestants is a Jewish girl (Esther) who has been
48 THE OLD TESTAMENT
reared by her cousin Mordecai since the death of her
parents. Mordecai Is one of the king's servants In the
palace at Shushan. Esther Is chosen by Ahasuerus, and
becomes his queen. She obeys Mordecal's Instructions
and reveals not that she Is a Jewish girl.
At this point In the story (2:21-23) the narrator
relates how Mordecai once had saved the king's life
from two ruffians. Both men were hanged, and the ac-
count of It had been written In the book of the chron-
icles of the king. This fact is to play an Important part
later in the story.
King Ahasuerus has a prince named Haman. Haman
has the authority to require all the king's servants to
bow before him as he passes by. But Mordecai refuses
to bow (3 :2) . That is understandable since Mordecai is
a strict Jew. Haman's wrath grows furious. He decides
to get revenge on Mordecai by destroying all Jews.
Very subtly, Haman leads Ahasuerus to believe that
the Jewish population is Insubordinate to the king's
rule, and receives the king's authority to have them des-
troyed. Accordingly, the rulers In every province are
notified that on the 13th day of the month Adar all
Jews are to be subject to death at the hands of the
king's soldiers. Upon hearing of this, Mordecai and
all other Jews weep and mourn. Mordecai sees that
their only hope is through the intercession of Esther.
He pleads with her to go before the king and try to
save her people. At first she refuses, but later accepts
the challenge and asks the Jews to fast for her for
three days and nights.
Confronting her husband king, Esther skilfully In-
vites him and Haman to her house for a dinner the
next night. At the dinner she Invites them back for the
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 49
next night. On returning to his room after the first
dinner, the king finds that he cannot sleep. He begins
to turn through the book of chronicles, and finds the
account of a man named IVTordecai who saved his life.
Upon learning that no reward has been given Mor-
decai for his good service, the king calls In Haman
and, without naming Mordecai, asks Haman what he
would suggest to be done for a man who has found
favor In the king's sight. Believing that the king is
speaking about him, Haman boldly suggests that the
unnamed man should be dressed In royal robes and
led through the streets, proclaimed as the one In
whom the king finds favor. Ahasuerus then commands
Haman to prepare Mordecai for such an ovation, and
to carry out the plans exactly as he had described them.
His distasteful mission accomplished, Haman joins the
king again for the second dinner at the queen's house.
At this occasion Esther Informs her husband king
that she is a Jew and that she and all other Jews will
be destroyed unless he stops the decree that Haman
has published. Shocked by the consequence of a per-
mission he has granted without complete knowledge,
the king leaves the room momentarily and returns to
find Haman apparently trying to attack Esther for
her betrayal. Haman is ordered to be hanged on the
very gallows which he has prepared for Mordecai. The
king's original decree Is neutralized by giving the
Jews the right not only to defend themselves, but also
to take vengeance upon all the house of Haman. At
the conclusion of hostilities, all Jews gather for a day
of feasting and celebrating. Mordecai commands that
the celebration become an annual afiair — the feast
50 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Thus, in story form, Is given the origin of the feast
of Purim. The book closes joyfully with Mordecal ele-
vated to a position next to the king, and providing peace
and prosperity for all the Jews.
Questions for Study
1. What was the occasion that made Esther queen?
2. What was the distasteful honor that Haman had
to bestow upon Mordecal? Why?
3. How did Esther prepare the king for the startling
declaration that she had to make to him?
4. What Is the annual celebration among the Jews
memorializing the good work of Queen Esther?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 51
The Book of Job belongs to the third division of
the Old Testament — the Writings. Along with Ruth
and Esther it is one of the most dramatic books in the
Old Testament. Unlike Ruth and Esther, Job is very
long — 42 chapters — much of which is somewhat
difficult to follow.
An historical analysis of the book brings out many
important features. It seems that a story of Job was
familiar among the Hebrews long before it was writ-
ten down. It also seems that the introductory portion
regarding Satan (chapters 1 and 2) was not in the
original oral story. The speeches of Elihu (chapters
32-37) also are regarded as supplementary material
added to the original poem. These and other critical
details of the book are not the primary interest at
the moment. It is sufficient to realize that a later writer
edited and revised a well known story to fit his pur-
pose. The final edition of the book was around 200 B.C.
The folk story upon which it is based goes back to un-
Job's influence can be seen upon such literature as
the Divine Comedy, Paradise Lost, Faust, and other
classics. The ability of the author to use a story for a
purpose ranks him among the greatest writers of man-
kind. The purpose of the book of Job is to challenge
the prevailing belief that human conduct is justly re-
warded on this earth. From time immemorial, the He-
brews expected blessings to accompany a good life,
52 THE OLD TESTAMENT
and suffering to follow an evil life. In Job that theme
The prologue sets the stage by giving Job's place
of residence, and declaring him to be perfect and up-
right in every way. His family, wealth, and fame are
described. The drama proper begins with verse 6. The
first act Is located in heaven. God gives Satan permis-
sion to "test" Job short of physical violence to his
body. Accordingly Job's family, farm, and servants
are destroyed. In spite of that he refuses to blaspheme
against God. Act two begins with chapter 2. Satan de-
clares to God that Job remains faithful only because
his physical body has not been hurt. God authorizes
Satan to test Job with bodily suffering, short of death.
Job's affliction with boils is well known. Seeing his
intense suffering his wife urges him to "curse God and
die." Still Job remains faithful. Chapter 4 begins
the three cycles of theological discussion between Job
and his three friends — Eliphaz, Blldad, and Zophar.
These discussions compose the major content of the
book. Basically each of the three men reiterates the
same belief; namely, that every human being has his
just reward or punishment from God. Job's suffering,
therefore, Is divine punishment for sin. He is urged
to repent of any sin, and thus allay the awful punish-
ment. But Job declares his three friends to be charging
him unjustly. He consistently maintains his innocence.
A fourth speaker, Ellhu, enters the story in chapter 32.
Being a younger man, he declares that he has been
hesitant to speak before the three older men. How-
ever, he has found no solution In what they have been
saying, so he becomes bold and asks permission to
speak as a layman — not as a professional. He criti-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 53
clzes both Job and the three alleged theologians, but
he does not offer any more constructive suggestions than
Finally, God enters the drama In chapter 38. He de-
clares anew His power of creating the world and all
things therein. He charges that neither Job nor his
three friends show the proper attitude toward the
power of God. Job repents (chapter 42). He inter-
cedes on behalf of his friends whom God has charged
with speaking folly. Because of his faithfulness to God
under terrifying circumstances he Is rewarded. His for-
tune is restored two fold; he is given 7 sons and 3
daughters who are acclaimed the most beautiful women
in all the world. The curtain closes with Job having
lived a long and prosperous life.
Questions for Study
1. What permission does God grant to Satan in each
of their two meetings?
2. What is the basic argument of the three friends
who come to see Job?
3. How seriously do you think the ending of the story
should be taken as a guide for righteous living to-
day? Does a good life bring physical blessing?
4. Why do people suffer?
5. Did Jesus promise his followers protection from
54 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The book of Psalms consists of one hundred and fifty
religious poems. It is a unique book in several ways.
For one thing it is the only one in which the words of
man are directed to God. In the rest of the Old Testa-
ment, the words of God are directed to man, or man's
directed to man. Some of the psalms are liturgical
literature — to be used in public worship. Others are
private prayers — to be used in private devotions.
David has been regarded as the author of psalms,
but such an inference is highly questionable. Psalms
1-72 do ascribe David's name, but the remainder are
from different times and locations with no name as-
cribed as the author. The book seems to have been
composed from various periods in Israel's history.
The final compilation took place between 400 and
100 B.C. That time is during a period in which very
little is known about the history of the Jews. The only
historical information about the Jews from the end of
II Kings to the beginning of I Maccabees (550-170)
is furnished by the writings of Haggai, Zechariah, and
Several of the Psalms are written in a popular con-
temporary style known as the acrostic. That is the prin-
ciple of starting each line or couplet with another letter
of the Hebrew alphabet. The most notable example
of this is Psalm 119. In that psalm many Bibles signify
the beginning of a new couplet by printing the new
letter at the heading. Many of the Psalms have been
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 55
set to music in their entirety. A psalter hymnal is used
in some churches today. Many anthems are based upon
a selected portion of a psalm. Probably the most pop-
ular psalms are the 1, 23, 24, and 100.
Questions for Study
1. Which is your favorite psalm? Why?
2. Examine a psalter hymn book. Which psalms are
3. What is meant by an acrostic style of literature?
Is it ever used today?
S6 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Several other nations beside Judah had their wisdom
literature. The Old Testament mentions several of
these non-Jewish sages. In I Kings (4:30, 31) three
foreign wise men are named. Sages of Babylon, Syria,
Edom, Arabia and Egypt are mentioned in the Old
Testament. Indeed, a substantial part of Proverbs is
borrowed directly from the Phoenecian or Canaanite
The Hebrew wise men were not given as prominent
a place in Israel as the prophets and priests. However,
their popular style of teaching drew large numbers
among the common people. They directed their teach-
ing primarily toward the youth of the nation. They
were seeking a good life for themselves, and trying
to teach others how to find it. There arose places
of instruction where the teacher could sit with his
pupils and state his truths. After the Maccabean strug-
gle the wise men gradually disappear. Many of the
functions of the wise men were carried on by the
scribes in later Judaism. Like Psalms, Proverbs is a
"collection of collections." It contains the best acrostic
alphabet poem in the Old Testament (31 :10-31).
The book of Proverbs contains no story or plot.
Therefore long portions usually are not read at one
time. It is more like an encyclopedia with every para-
graph on a different subject. Many of the shorter
proverbs have been made quite popular by use — such
as, "Train up a child in the way he should go; and
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 57
when he is old he will not depart from it" (22 :6) ; *'A
soft answer turneth away wrath, but grievous words
stir up anger" (15 :1). "The wicked flee when no man
pursueth, but the righteous are bold as a lion" (28 :1 ) .
Questions for Study
1. To which of the three divisions of the Old Testa-
ment does Proverbs belong?
2. Which proverb do you quote most often?
3. Select several proverbs and evaluate their truth.
58 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The word Ecclesiastes usually is translated "preach-
er" or "speaker to an assembly." Actually the book
is quite heretical to orthodox Judaism when viewed as
a whole. Orthodox Judaism maintained that life has
purpose and usefulness, and that one's personal moral-
ity makes a difference. Ecclesiastes denies all of that
and claims that all of life is determined by a fatalism.
There is no reward in this life, nor after death, for
there is no life after death. Both wickedness and right-
eousness lead to the same end — death. "Vanity of
vanities, all is vanity" is the beginning and the end
of the book. No wonder it had difficulty being accepted
into the canon as holy Scripture I The book is read each
year during the Feast of the Tabernacles probably to
temper the happiness of the occasion with the solemn
thought that life and happiness are fleeting.
Chapter 1 sets the pace of the book by asserting
that experience proves that life leads to no lasting
gain. Neither does wisdom make any difference ex-
cept that it may show more clearly the utter futility of
life. In chapter 2 the writer dares to say that both
the wise men and the fool meet the same end, and
that human toil has no reward except whatever hap-
piness can be found in it. So goes the book of Eccle-
siastes through its twelve chapters. Chapter 11 urges
one to seize upon every opportunity, but to realize that
there is risk in everything.
To the writer of Ecclesiastes should go the credit
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 59
for taking a realistic view of the problems of existence,
and trying to answer it honestly on the basis of human
experience and nothing more. Its defense for being
accepted into the canon is argued on the fact that it
does contain certain religious injunctions, to wit,
12:14 *'For God shall bring every work into judg-
ment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or
whether it be evil.*'
Questions for Study
1. What is the mood of the Book of Ecclesiastes?
2. What do you think of human experience alone as
the basis for explaining human existence?
3. Why was Ecclesiastes regarded as heresy by ortho-
60 THE OLD TESTAMENT
THE SONG OF SOLOMON
Like Ecclesiastes, the Song of Solomon Is unusual and
difficult to interpret. It seems to have primarily a secu-
lar character, God never is mentioned in it. It is like
the book of Esther in that respect. Like Ecclesiastes
it had difficulty being accepted into the canon because
of its secular nature. The Song of Solomon seems to be
a collection of love songs by a groom, his bride, and
friends. Because of its nature it sometimes was sung
as a wine song. Such use of it was forbidden after its
The book is interpreted many different ways by
Christians. Some interpret it allegorically by seeing the
bridegroom as Christ and the bride as the Church.
Others interpret it as a dramatic presentation. Still
others interpret it llturgically and envision its use in the
fertility cults — such as Baalism.
The Song of Solomon is traditionally attributed to
Solomon. The theme is love, and consequently It con-
tains imagery, dreams, and visions. Since it is a collec-
tion of poems or couplets it is impossible to discuss it
in detail. Every couplet presents a different image and
expression of love.
Questions for Study
L Do you consider the Song of Solomon one of the
more popular books of the Old Testament?
2. What is the nature of the book?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 61
The book of Isaiah Is divided Into two distinct parts.
Part I consists of chapters 1 through 39. Part II con-
sists of chapters 40 through 66. The second part de-
scribes events that took place a century later than the
first part, and therefore was written by someone after
the time of Isaiah. It is generally agreed that the dif-
ference in historical background and theological
thought is so prominent that it is better to examine the
two parts as separate books.
The Man Isaiah
The prophet Isaiah was born in Jerusalem about
765 B.C. and lived there until his death shortly after
700 B.C. He was a contemporary of Amos who went
into Samaria in the Northern Kingdom to do his
preaching. Isaiah's primary interest is confined to the
city of Jerusalem. He records his ministry as beginning
''in the year that King Uzziah died" (6:1) — that is
about 740 B.C. Isaiah had grown up in Jerusalem dur-
ing a time of national prosperity. Merchants had ac-
cumulated considerable wealth which Isaiah sarcastic-
ally denounces. The death of King Uzziah in 740 B.C.
meant a change in the economic status of the nation.
Isaiah had a premonition of Impending disaster. He
was married close to the time of his call to the minis-
try, and had a son, Shear-Jackeal, which means **a
remnant will return." A second son born five years
later was given a name meaning "Swift spoil-quick
62 THE OLD TESTAMENT
prey." However, Isaiah interpreted this as simply the
coming destruction of Damascus and Samaria (8:1-4)
and not of Judah. At that time it seems that the prophet
had hopes of Judah's survival. But Assyria soon rose
to new power under the leadership of Tigleth-pileser
III (745-727). The new king of Judah, Ahaz, rejected
Isaiah's advice and tried to make an alliance with
Assyria. He sent tributes of gold and silver to him as
described in II Kings 16:8. His appeasement was not
to stay the hand of Assyria for long. During the next
century Judah was to be a vassel of Assyria.
Isaiah witnessed all of this intrigue and impending
doom. Indeed he saw the Northern kingdom, Israel,
fall under Assyria in 722. He knew that his own na-
tion of Judah was not far behind. King Ahaz was fol-
lowed by King Hezekiah who tried an opposite ap-
proach to stay the hand of Assyria. Ahaz had tried to
avoid a conflict, but Hezekiah raised an army and tried
to halt the rising tide of Assyria. It could not be done.
In 701 the Assyrians, under Sennacherib, laid siege to
Jerusalem and Hezekiah was forced to surrender.
Isaiah witnessed these events throughout the siege
of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. Through it all he condemned
the foreign policies of his nation in trying to establish
alliances and secret negotiations. The only alliance he
would countenance was with God. Furthermore, he
condemned the leadership of his nation as being self
centered and debauched. For Isaiah one thing was
clear. Any people who rebel against the laws of God
are bound for destruction. He saw no hope for the
nation — as such — to survive.
Isaiah is the first of the prophets to emphasize the
importance of vicarious suffering; that Is, one person
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 63
(or group) suffering for another. He also says much
about a "remnant" who will return. However, it seems
that the "remnant" is to return to God — not to
I Isaiah: 1-39
Turning now to the book itself, there is no chrono-
logical or running story to follow. The book consists
primarily of a collection of oracles which were ex-
panded and edited after Isaiah's death. Chapters 1-5
generally contain oracles against Judah and Jerusalem.
These are believed to have been written in 734 B.C.
immediately after King Ahaz tried to appease the As-
syrians. The second collection of Isaiah's oracles are
contained in chapters 28-31. These were said after
King Hezekiah refused his plea to abstain from al-
liances with Egypt. Chapters 13 through 23 contain
prophecies of doom against foreign nations. A few
verses in that section probably are genuine oracles of
Isaiah, but the major part of it was written long after
his death. For example, chapters 13 and 14 are
prophecies against Babylon, mistress of the world.
But Babylon was not mistress of the world until be-
tween 605 and 538 — a century after Isaiah's death.
Furthermore, it is well to note that chapters 36-39
are extracts from II Kings 18:13-20:19.
II Isaiah: 40-66
Some scholars divide this book into two sections:
40-55 as II Isaiah, and 56-66 as III Isaiah. However,
such technicality is beyond the purpose at this time.
This second half of Isaiah manifests a tremendous
faith in God. It addresses the Jews who were disillu-
64 THE OLD TESTAMENT
sioned and dejected during the Babylonian captivity and
Immediately following. One of the most popular and
controversial questions is the identity of the servant of
the Lord described in chapter 42. Some have contended
it to mean the Jews. Others see it as an individual such
as Cyrus or the writer himself. Many Christians inter-
pret it as the perfect description of Jesus, the Messiah.
The book closes with an ecstatic vision of a new com-
munity of God. The people and the land are reborn.
The Messianic age is come. Those who refuse to pay
homage will be subject to death by a fire that will not
Questions for Study
1. What was the political and economic condition of
Judah during Isaiah's lifetime?
2. Whom do you identify as the "Servant of the
Lord" in chapter 42?
3. Contrast the personality and message of Isaiah
with his contemporary Amos.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT GS
The prophet Jeremiah was born about 60 years after
Isaiah's death. He lived and prophesied, therefore,
in that critical period beginning In 626 and continu-
ing through the fall of Jerusalem in 586. In Jeremiah's
early manhood the power of Assyria waned, and Baby-
lon became the dominant nation of the world. Nebu-
chadnezzar tightened his rule. Several thousand of the
upper class people were carried off to Babylon. For a
while the puppet ruler, Zedekiah, was friendly with
Jeremiah and worked harmoniously with his Babylon-
ian overlords. Finally, however, he tried to join with
Egypt in restraining Babylon. In reprisal the Baby-
lonians besieged Jerusalem and utterly destroyed it in
586, carrying off a large number of captives. Gedallah
was made the puppet ruler for the next ten years, at
which time he was assassinated by Ishmael. In the dis-
turbance that followed, some of the Jews fled to Egypt
taking Jeremiah with them. Jeremiah's faith that Jeru-
salem ultimately would be restored is evidenced by his
purchase of a parcel of land in the destroyed city. For
Jeremiah, religion is between an individual and God.
He is getting away from the idea of the salvation of a
community (Judah) previously held by the Jews.
The book of Jeremiah divides itself into three parts,
with an historic appendix in chapter 52. Part 1 con-
sists of chapters 1-25, and could be called the words of
Jeremiah. This section contains his oracles to Judah
and Israel (2-6) ; a denunciation of idolatry and im-
66 THE OLD TESTAMENT
morality (7-10) ; warning against Jerusalem (12, 13) ;
explanation of the great drought (14-15:10) ; miscel-
laneous oracles (15:10-20:18) ; denunciation of kings
and prophets (21-23) ; two visions (24-25).
Part II is a biography of Jeremiah (26-45). This
section discusses such items as : the consequence of
Jeremiah's temple address (26) ; his efforts to restrain
Judah from rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar in 593
(27-29) ; his hopes for the future (30-33) ; his experi-
ence under Jehoiakim and Zedekiah (34-36) ; his per-
secution during the siege and destruction of Jerusalem
(37-39) ; his last years (40-45) including the flight to
) ir^art III contains prophecies against foreign nations
(46-51). This section contains oracles and prophetic
pronouncements against Egypt (46) ; against the Phil-
istines (47); Moab (48); Ammonites (49:1-6)
Edom, Damascus, Kedar, Elam and Babylonia. Chap-
ter 52 is an historical appendix which includes the
fall of Jerusalem in 586 quoted from II Kings.
Among the more familiar and dramatic portions of
the book are the visions of the almond rod and the
■ seething pot; parable of the potter; and the persecu-
tion and imprisonment of Jeremiah.
Questions for Study
1. What is the meaning of the vision of the almond
rod? The parable of the potter?
2. Why was Jeremiah opposed to rebelling against
3. What was Judah's status as a nation during Jere-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 67
Each of the five chapters In this book Is a separate
poem, complete In Itself. The first four are funeral
dirges lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem In 586.
The fifth Is more of a personal prayer. The first four
are alphabetical acrostics, each stanza beginning with
the appropriate letter of the alphabet. It Is better to
read this book In a more correct literary style — such
as the Revised Standard Version or any modern trans-
It Is easy to understand why tradition has ascribed
Jeremiah as the author of Lamentations. Certainly It
was written by one who experienced the awful destruc-
tion of Jerusalem. But If Lamentations originally had
been known to be the work of Jeremiah It would have
been put In the group of books known as the Prophets,
However, It was compiled at a later date and put in
the third group — the Writings. The tradition con-
necting it with Jeremiah arose after the first century
A.D. This book was written not just to weep over the
tragic destruction of Jerusalem but also to show God's
will for His people. God's people were to maintain
their faith in Him in spite of the terrible disaster they
Chapter I usually is called "The misery of Jeru-
salem." The city is described as a widow; as one with
no lovers to comfort her; as one whose beauty and
strength is all gone. Chapter 2 declares that Jeru-
salem's miseries are the result of Divine Judgment
68 THE OLD TESTAMENT
upon the sins of the people. God is the subject of nearly
half the sentences in the chapter. Chapter 3 is the
longest of all chapters, with 66 verses. Each of the
other chapters has 22 verses. This chapter is a personal
lament and prayer. "Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts and
hands to God in heaven; we have transgressed and re-
belled, and thou hast not forgiven." (3:40-42). Chap-
ter 4 contrasts Jerusalem's glorious past with her piti-
ful present. "Her princes were purer than snow, whiter
than milk; .... Now their visage is blacker than soot."
Chapter 5 is a prayer. The miseries of captivity are
described, and God's mercy sought. "The joy of our
hearts has ceased; our dancing has turned to mourn-
ing; . . . Restore us unto thyself, O Lord, that we may
be restored! Renew our days as of old."
Questions for Study
1. Why has it been natural to ascribe Lamentations to
Jeremiah, the "weeping Prophet?"
2. What is the faith which the author desires his
people to have?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 69
The book of Ezekiel Is divided into four main divi-
sions. Each division pretty well can be dated and placed
by the events which it describes. Indeed, no other
prophetic book, except Haggai and Zechariah, offers
such exact dates and chronology. Fourteen dates are
scattered through the book. They range from the 5th
year of the captivity, which would be 593 B.C., to the
27thyear, or 571 B.C.
Ezekiel seems to have been 20 or 30 years younger
than Jeremiah. His ministry runs from 593 to 571. The
fall of Jerusalem in 586 divides Ezekiel's career in two
sharp contrasts. After 586 Ezekiel's allusions to the
history of his own people cease. From that time on he
regards the Exiles as the nucleus of a new community.
For the people of Jerusalem before the fall, Ezekiel
has nothing but contempt for their rebellious nature.
For those who go into exile, Ezekiel has great affection,
and he expects the birth of a new nation to come from
them. The Book of Ezekiel is a book of transition. It
was the last book to be accepted in the prophetic canon.
Ezekiel comes to the conclusion that the Jews' contri-
bution will not be in politics but in religion.
Part 1 (chapters 1-24) is spoken in Jerusalem be-
ginning in 593 B.C. He addresses his message to the
inhabitants of that city announcing the impending
doom. Notice how Ezekiel dramatizes the future des-
truction of Jerusalem and the exile. He draws a picture
of the city and then destroys it (4:1-3) ; he lays on his
70 THE OLD TESTAMENT
left side (symbolizing Israel) for 390 days; and he
lays on his right side (symbolizing Judah) for 40 days.
These figures indicate the number of years the two
countries will be in exile (4 :4-6) . He eats barley bread
cooked with human refuse as fuel, symbolizing the im-
pure food that Israel will eat in the land of the exiles
(4:12-15). Thus, Ezekiel employs allegory and drama
to make his message clear.
Part II (chapters 25-32) contains oracles against
foreign nations. His primary targets are Tyre and
Egypt, but he also includes such nations as Ammon,
Moab, Edom, Philistia. In his oracle against Egypt
(29-32) he calls Pharaoh a great crocodile dragged
out of the Nile river and slain.
Part III consists of chapters 33-39. In this division
the future restoration of Israel is envisioned. In the
place of the sinful rulers of Israel, God Himself will
gather His scattered sheep, feed them and protect
them (34:11-22). In another vision Ezekiel sees a
valley of dry bones come to life (37:1-10) symboliz-
ing the restoration of Israel.
Part IV consists of chapters 40-48. It is a vision of
a restored Israel, and Is dated April 17, 572. The
division of the land among the 12 tribes Is given. Finally
he envisions a stream of life flowing from the temple
which turns the desert into a garden, and the dead sea
Into a fresh water lake filled with fish (47:1-12). This
fourth division of the book is a step In the direction of
apocalypticism which is to come into prominence dur-
ing later centuries. Apocalypticism means an imaginary
flight Into the future with little or no regard for the
meaning of facts. As might be expected, many of the
predictions prove to be untrue.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 71
Questions for Study
1. What is the meaning of the "valley of dry bones?"
2. What influence did the political conditions of Judah
have on Ezekiel?
3. How does Ezekiel use drama and allegory to
preach his message
12 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The book is divided into two parts. Part I (chapters
1-6) contains stories of Daniel and his friends remain-
ing true to their religion in spite of persecution. Part II
(chapters 7-12) contains Daniel's four visions which
describe the end of pagan rulers and the coming of
The writing of the book of Daniel is very late —
the second century B.C. However, it is written from the
standpoint of one living in the 6th century. The closer
to the 2nd century he comes, the more accurate and
detailed are his descriptions. It now is accepted that
this book was written during the reign of Antiochus
Epiphanes (175-164) who is known in history as *'the
little horn" — the same name that he Is called in
Daniel 7 :20-27, thereby giving accurate proof as to
the late date of the book.
Chapter I is the introduction of the story of Daniel
and his three friends. The Imaginary setting is during
the Babylonian captivity. Taken captive by Nebuchad-
nezzar in 606 B. C, Daniel and his friends are per-
mitted to live In the king's court. They refuse to violate
Jewish laws by partaking of the king's food. Chapter
2 begins with Nebuchadnezzar's dream and his efforts
to have it interpreted. Daniel is given divine wisdom to
interpret the dream, and he discloses to Nebuchadnez-
zar Its meaning. Daniel Is praised for his wisdom and
elevated to the position of governor of Babylon.
Chapter 3 describes the experience In the fiery fur-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 73
nace of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego when they
refuse to worship a golden idol. To Nebuchadnezzar's
astonishment they emerge unhurt. He elevates them to
a high position in the government. Chapter 4 describes
Daniel's prophecy that for seven years Nebuchadnez-
zar will be insane and live like a beast; then return to
sanity. Chapter 5 contains the account of the mysterious
writing on the wall while Belshazzar and his court were
drinking in Jerusalem. That same night Belshazzar was
slain, and Darius, the Persian, ruled. Chapter 6 is the
well known story of Daniel in the lion's den. Jealous
over Daniel's power and favor in the sight of Darius,
the other prominent rulers induce Darius to issue a de-
cree that no prayers could be uttered except to the
king. Daniel continues his daily prayers to God, and
Darius is forced to cast him in the lion's den. On find-
ing Daniel unharmed, Darius orders Daniel's enemies
to be thrown to the lions, and orders his subjects to
reverence Daniel's God.
Part II of the book begins with chapter 7. Daniel
has a vision of four beasts that are explained by an
angel to mean the four pagan kingdoms of Babylon,
Media, Persia and Seleucid (Greek). The human
figures represent the Jews. The little horn is Antiochus
Epiphanes. Chapter 8 is the second vision. It is a ram
and a buck. Gabriel explains to Daniel that the ram
represents the Medo-Persian kings; the buck is the
Greek kingdom; the buck's horn is Alexander the
Great, and the four horns are the kingdoms of Mace-
donia, Thrace, Syria and Egypt. Chapter 9 contains
the third vision. The meaning of the 70 years of Jeru-
salem's desolation, as predicted in Jeremiah 25:11, is
explained by Gabriel. He shows Daniel that the 70
74 THE OLD TESTAMENT
weeks are actually 70 weeks of years (490 years).
These fall into three periods of 7 weeks, 62 weeks, and
one week, after which the messianic kingdom will come.
Chapters 10-12 contain the fourth vision. It is a descrip-
tion of the final period preceding the messianic age. It
covers the period from 538 to the death of Antiochus
Epiphanes in 164.
The date of the writing of Daniel can be definitely
set at between 168 and December 165 B. C. The
events described In this period by the author are quite
accurate. After 165, however, the writer moves Into
the realm of apocalypticism. For example, he predicts
the death of Antiochus Epiphanes to take place be-
tween Jerusalem and the Mediterranean, but actually
he was killed In Persia In the winter of 164.
The book of Daniel was not yet written when the
prophetic books were canonized about 200 B. C. Con-
sequently, the book is listed in the third section of Old
Testament literature — The Writings. Daniel and
Ecclesiastes are the latest religious writings in the Old
Testament. Yet these two are quite opposite In their
theology. Daniel sees final triumph of righteousness
(Judah) ; Ecclesiastes Is an heretical book, claiming
that righteousness wins no favor from God. No doubt
the book of Daniel gave courage to the devout Jews
struggling under persecution to look to the future for
their hope and glory.
Questions for Study
1. How does the term ''little horn'* help date the
writing of Daniel?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT IS
2. From what century does the author allege to be
looking at history?
3. Contrast Daniel with another late book, Ecclesias-
tes, and the mood In which it is written.
76 THE OLD TESTAMENT
This book Is the first of that group known as "The
Book of the Twelve" — consisting of 12 books from
Hosea to Malachl. These twelve were put Into one
volume in order to balance the number of latter
prophets with the former prophets. The former
prophets are Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings. The
latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and
'The Book of the Twelve."
Hosea is one of the four great prophets of the 8th
century. The other three are Amos, Micah, Isaiah. He
is a contemporary of Amos. Unlike Amos, he is from
the North (Israel). Amos is from Judah and goes
North to Israel. Hosea's ministry seems to have begun
around 744 B. C, critical years preceding the fall of
Samaria (and the Northern Kingdom) in 722. Hosea's
sensitive soul is disgusted with Baal worship which had
increased during the reign of Jeroboam II. Baalism was
a fertility cult that sought to increase the productivity
of fields and flocks. It was natural that such a cult
should lead to promiscuous sexual indulgences Including
temple prostitutes who symbolized the act of fertility
and the reproductive process. Hosea Is thoroughly dis-
gusted at such pagan vulgarity.
The Book of Hosea is composed of two main sec-
tions: chapters 1-3 and 4-14. Married to a prostitute,
Gomer, Hosea gives his three sons symbolic names to
announce the fall of the doomed nation. Chapter 3
describes the intense love which Hosea has for his way-
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 77
ward wife, and his yearning to redeem her at any price.
Hosea comes to realize that Israel like his wife, has
been untrue to her lover, God; but God yearns to win
again the love of His people. More than any
other prophet, Hosea portrays God as a God of
love, God's love is unanswered until man responds.
Chapters 4-14 describe Israel's unfaithfulness to God.
Over and over Hosea declares that a spirit of harlotry
has led the people astray (4:12; 5:4; 9:1). Hosea
sees the unfaithfulness of the people as having its be-
ginning during the period of the wilderness wander-
ings (9 :9-10; 10:9). Israel's sin is in her breaking the
''covenant of love" with God. By conforming to her
pagan environment Israel began the practice of Baalism
and had fallen prey to sexual indulgences and drink-
ing (4:11; 7:41). Hosea is able to see that the kind
of God which a man worships determines the kind of
moral quality which that person will acquire.
At first Hosea has hopes that his nation will turn
their hearts to God in love (2:7, 14). Later he sees
that there is to be no conversion of the nation, and
that God would be forced to execute His people ( 13 :3-
Chapter 14 is an epilogue written by an editor in the
postexilic period. This chapter paints a picture of a
glorious resurrection of the nation following its des-
truction. Its writer is seeking to bring Hosea's message
up to date with what happens after the exile.
Questions for Study
1. How does Hosea's wife compare with Israel?
78 THE OLD TESTAMENT
2. What characteristic of God does Hosea show more
clearly than any other prophet?
3. Why does the kind of God In which a person be-
lieves effect that person's morality?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 79
The immediate cause of Joel's prophecy is locust
plagues that he sees as a judgment from God and as a
warning of the fateful "Day of the Lord." The book
is divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-2:27 deal
with the present; and chapters 2 :28-3 :21 deal with the
future. This second division is a part of that literature
known as apocalypticism — a fanciful projection into
Overcome by the locusts and drought, the people are
urged to return to a forgiving God (2:12-14). God
promises to remove the locusts and provide abundant
food as proof of His favor to His people ( 2 :1 8-27 ) .
Part II begins with the declaration that God's spirit
will be poured out on all ages of people (2:28, 29).
"... your old men shall dream dreams, your young
men shall see visions ..." On the fateful Day of the
Lord the faithful will be delivered, but pagan nations
will be slaughtered because of their cruelty toward the
Jews (3:2, 3). Judah and Jerusalem will remain es-
tablished forever and God will dwell therein (3:19-
Written about 400 B. C, the book of Joel clearly
shows the transition from prophecy to apocalypticism.
Nationalism is rising; the individual is receding. Under
constant disappointment, Jews like Joel try to explain
that God's time has not yet come. Joel also sees God
as so holy and transcendent that a priest is necessary
for mediation between God and man.
80 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. What significance does Joel attach to the locust
2. What is prophesied to happen to the Jews and to
pagan nations on the "Day of the Lord?"
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 81
The prophet Amos was the first of the four prophets
of the eighth century. His ministry seems to have be-
gun about 750 B. C. when he was a shepherd near
Bethlehem. He goes to the Northern kingdom, how-
ever, to speak his message. It must be remembered that
the Northern kingdom had established shrines in var-
ious places to take the place of the Jerusalem temple
(see I Kings 12 ; 20-30) . These shrines and their priests
were regarded by the Southern patriots as Illegitimate
and outside the Deuteronomic tradition. Amos dares
to go to the Northern court of Samaria to speak his
stern message. He called the ladles "cows of Bashan"
(4:1-3). At Bethel, the religious center of the North-
ern kingdom, his ministry was brought to an end by
Amaziah, the chief priest of the shrine there. Amaziah
sent a report of Amos' "heresy" to King Jeroboam II
who ordered Amos to cease preaching and return to
his own land in the South.
Amos' short ministry is like a bright flash that
shines for an Instant and is consumed. He condemned
the accumulation of wealth at the expense of the poor,
and the offering of sacrifice and ritual without right-
eousness. Amos saw the failure of religious and poli-
tical leaders. He believed that privilege requires re-
sponsibility. The justice and morality of God is the
central theme of his message. "Let justice roll down like
water, and righteous like a mighty stream."
The book of Amos is divided into three parts : chap-
82 THE OLD TESTAMENT
ters 1-2; 3-6; and 7-9. The first section consists of dec-
larations against six foreign nations, then against Judah
and Israel. Israel is his main objective, so he gives more
attention to it (2 :6-16). The second part is a collection
of brief sermons pronouncing doom on Israel. God
has warned the nation through famine, drought, and
destruction of cities, but Israel has refused to heed
God's chastisement. Consequently, a desolation shall
fall upon them worse than they ever have experienced
before. Exile shall mark their end.
The third section (7-9) contains a series of visions
— such as locusts, fire, and plumb line (7:1-9) fol-
lowed by a brief account of the conflict between Amos
and Amaziah the priest (7:10-17). The book closes
(chapter 9) with an epilogue written by a later editor
portraying the return of the Exiles and the restoration
of the Kingdom of David.
Questions for Study
1. Where did Amos go to proclaim his message?
2. What qualities of God did Amos emphasize?
3. What was the conflict between Amos and Amaziah?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 83
This book consists of only one chapter — 21 verses.
That one chapter Is divided Into two sections. Verses
1-14 discuss the judgment that Is to fall upon Edom
for her cruelty toward the Jews during their terrible
persecution from the Babylonians In the sixth century.
Obadlah declares that God Is humbling the Edomites
by allowing them to be plundered by their former allies.
The reason for this judgment upon Edom Is because of
Edom's cruelty to her sister nation, Judah (11-14).
This first part of Obadlah was written about 460 B.C.
It Is of interest to note the parallel between verses 1-9
and Jeremiah (49:7-22).
The second part of the chapter consists of verses
15-21. It no longer remains true to historical facts but
goes into an apocalyptic rendition of the "Day of the
Lord" when Israel will be restored. The writer fore-
sees the reunion of the Northern and Southern tribes
and their conquest of Edom (18). The new kingdom
of Israel shall expand in all directions and eventuate
into the Kingdom of God (19-21).
The major Idea of Obadlah is God's moral judgment
upon nations throughout history. He also declares with
great assurance the coming of the Kingdom of God.
It is natural that he would defiine the Kingdom in
terms of Israel and Palestine.
84 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. Against what country does Obadiah pour out his
protest? What was the cause for hatred?
2. Can you see a basic distinction between verses
1-14 and 15-21?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 85
The book of Jonah is quite different — and a wel-
come difference — from the other books in the Book
of the Twelve. Jonah relates the prophet's adventures
but practically nothing of his message. The other eleven
books contain primarily the message of the prophet
but little of his history,
Jonah is a parable. In a time when Israel had a
spirit of bitterness toward other nations, the prophet
sought to awaken among the Jews a sense of their mis-
sionary destiny. They were to save — not destory —
other nations. The story of Jonah is the vehicle for
presenting that message.
Called by God to go preach salvation to the wicked
citizens of Nineveh, Jonah refuses to obey God's com-
mand. He tries to escape from God by going on a
boat into foreign waters. In the midst of a great storm
Jonah confesses his sin to the sailors and they throw
him overboard at his request. Picked up by a whale
he is deposited on dry land. God commands him a
second time to go preach to Nineveh. This time he goes.
The picture of Jonah in Nineveh is most amazing
(chapters 3, 4). The people of Nineveh repent and
are spared — much to Jonah's regret. He wants to
see the whole city destroyed by the wrath of God. In
his anger and disgust Jonah goes out to the edge of
the city and rests in the shade of a vine. In a sudden
ending to the story God tells Jonah that He has the
right to pity and save any city that repents of its sins.
86 THE OLD TESTAMENT
The date of writing Jonah Is between 400 and 350
B.C. The narrowness of Judaism had been Increased by
the reform of Ezra In 444 B. C. In which he called for
a strict limitation of Judaism to Its own people. The
book of Jonah dares to show that God has Interests
In other nations besides Israel. It might be regarded
as the first missionary book In the Bible.
Questions for Study
1. Why was Jonah disgusted In Nineveh?
2. What spirit did Jonah try to awaken among the
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 87
Micah is the fourth of the eighth century prophets.
In contrast to Isaiah, Micah is an humble villager. His
primary concern was the degradation of the poor for
the enrichment of the wealthy. In that respect he Is
similar to Amos.
MIcah's ministry seems to have taken place between
the years 714 and 700 B.C. The Northern kingdom
of Israel had fallen in 722, and Micah can see impend-
ing doom over his Southern Kingdom of Judah. He
knows that unless Judah's internal and international
relations are carefully preserved the nation is bound
for disaster. Even though Micah Is listed as one of the
"minor" prophets it is important to remember that such
a description is based entirely upon the quantity of
the writing and not its quality. Micah never should be
rated as a "minor" character — of minor Importance.
Jeremiah (26:19) recognized that Micah instituted an
Important reform among the people of Judah.
MIcah's prophecy begins with a warning of an Im-
pending judgment (1 :l-4). The capture of Samaria in
722 is envisioned as extending to the gates of Jeru-
salem. In chapter 2 Micah opens his denunciation of
the rich who sell women and children into slavery and
plunder those who seek peace. (2:1-4). In a mood of
sarcasm Micah declares that the only kind of prophet
some people want Is one who would preach untruthfully
about wine and strong drink. In chapter 3 Micah turns
from the masses of the people to their leaders. He de-
88 THE OLD TESTAMENT
clares that the rulers accept bribes for the perver-
sion of justice. Jerusalem is to be plowed under like
a field as the result of the sins of its inhabitants and
The second part of Micah (chapters 4-7) is an addi-
tion made by an unknown writer after the Exile. Chap-
ters 4 and 5 portray a restored Jerusalem to which
people will come in great numbers to worship God.
Peace will be enjoyed by the whole world. All dis-
persed Jews will be returned to Jerusalem, and God's
kingdom will be established there. (4:6-8) . The future
Messianic king will come from Bethlehem like his
ancestor David. He will restore Israel and rule the
Chapters 6 and 7 are still another addition to the
original. In a dramatic setting a court scene is described
in which God is the prosecutor and judge; Israel is the
defendent. Upon pleading guilty the nation inquires
if her sins can be atoned by burnt offerings. God
answers that the only requirement is "to do justly, and
to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God"
(6:6-8). In chapter 7, a postexilic vision, there is the
promise that Jerusalem will prosper again, but that
the rest of the world will become desolate (7:11-13).
Questions FOR Study
1. In what political and religious climate did Micah
2. Describe the court scene in chapter 6.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 89
This book Is the work of a poet and a passionate
nationalist. He gives full vent to his anger against
Nineveh. It is somewhat reminiscent of the bloody
*'Song of Deborah" (Judges 5). Nahum gives a vivid
description of the slaughter of cavalry, the capture of
the queen and her attendants, the crumbling of Nineveh
and its total ruin. Such Imaginary scenes appear as If
they are being described by an eye witness. The book
was written between 660 and the conquest of Nineveh
in 612 — to which it looks forward.
The book opens with an acrostic poem (1:1-9). The
alphabetical arrangement, however, was seriously re-
arranged and supplemented by a later writer about 300
B. C. The acrostic is followed by a long poem (1 :ll-
3:19). This envisions the attack, punishment, and de-
struction of Nineveh. In brief, Nahum's theme is that
Nineveh will feel the last of God's judgment because
of her cruelty to Judah. He is quite different from
Amos, Hosea and Isaiah who sees the judgment of God
upon their own nation even more than upon a foreign
nation. Nahum's religious insights can not be com-
pared with such other prophets as Amos and Hosea In
the Book of the Twelve.
Questions for Study
1 . To the destruction of what foreign city does Nahum
90 THE OLD TESTAMENT
2. Contrast Nahum's religious Insights with those of
3. What is the reason for the difference?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 91
Habakkuk begins by raising the question, "When
will help come?" God answers by saying that the
Chaldeans are being used to punish the Hebrews.
Habakkuk is even more puzzled. "How can evil
Chaldeans be used by God?" The answer is that the
Chaldeans' victory is only temporary. The final triumph
will be for the Jewish remnant. God tells Habakkuk to
write His message plainly upon a tablet so that "a
running man could read it" (2 :2) . Habakkuk is led to
see that "the just shall live by his faith" (2:4).
Habakkuk understands that tyranny brings its own
self destruction. He declares five woes upon those who
are cruel and unjust to others (2:6-20). Those five
woes are (1) Injustice breeds rebellion (6-8) ; (2) Evil
gain does not bring security (9-11); (3) Cruelty breeds
cruelty (12-14); (4) Degrading others brings self
degradation (15-17); (5) Idols are useless (18-19).
Chapter three is a psalm of praise, the final verses of
which declare the author's inner joy in spite of outer
adversity. "I will rejoice in the Lord; I will joy in the
God of my salvation." (3:18).
The original work of the prophet Habakkuk was
written about 600 B. C. when he saw the Chaldeans
rising to power. In the third century B. C. the psalm
(chapter 3) and other miscellaneous verses were
92 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. What question does Habakkuk ask God?
2. Compare Habakkuk's "The just shall live by his
faith" with the Apostle Paul's quotation of it
in Romans 1 :17.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 93
Zephaniah prophesied about 630-624 B.C. 25 years
before Habakkuk — perhaps immediately before the
reforms of Josiah in 621. The main oracle in the book
is 1:4-18 in which the prophet denounces Judah for
her worship of other gods. He condemns those who
feel secure that God will not punish them. In the same
part of the oracle he is appalled at the coming of the
Scythians. He proclaims the anticipated coming of the
Day of the Lord. His description of the horrors that
will accompany that Day of the Lord is unsurpassed in
Hebrew literature. ''That day is a day of wrath, a
day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and
desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of
clouds and thick darkness, . . .*' (1:15-18).
Chapter 2 is a series of oracles against foreign na-
tions such as Egypt, Moab, Ammon. Chapter 3 an-
nounces the final judgment of God (3:8-20), with the
wicked removed from Israel and the beginning of the
Millennium. When the book of Zephaniah had been
completed by Its last editor it had taken on the arrange-
ment of other prophetic books; namely, the denounce-
ment of the prophet's own people, then a denouncement
of foreign nations, and finally a vision of the future
glory of Israel.
94 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. What was Zephanlah's complaint against Judah
2. Describe the glorious future described in 3:14-20.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 95
Haggal Is probably best known as one of the four
prophets who sought to rebuild the city of Jerusalem
and especially the temple there. Since 586 the temple
had been In ruins. Now, In 520, Haggal and Zecharlah
lead the people to begin rebuilding the temple.
Haggal's message begins with the declaration to
Zerubbabel and Joshua that the crop failure and
drought came as a result of the Jews building fine
houses for themselves but neglecting to rebuild the
temple of God (1 :1-11). As a result work begins on
the temple. After one month's work Haggal arouses
the criticism of those who contend that the new struc-
ture can not measure up to the old one. He declares
that the glory of the new one will surpass the old one
because of much financial aid from the Gentiles (1 :15-
HaggaPs third oracle (2:10-19) Is wrongly dated.
It should read *'on the 24th day of the sixth month**
rather than "ninth month." This oracle was given on
the day the construction was started. He contends that
the sacrifices offered on the site of the destroyed temple
are of no value. With the laying of the cornerstone
for the new building, however, he declares that God
will bless the people from that day.
The fourth and final oracle Is delivered after con-
struction had progressed for three months. Haggal
promises the people that God will destroy the power
of the Gentiles and make Zerubbabel, of the house of
96 THE OLD TESTAMENT
David, his signet ring — meaning the Messiah (2:20-
23). Haggai looked upon Governor Zerubbabel as the
long expected Messiah. Quite logically, then, he felt
that if God is to establish His kingdom soon His
temple should be made ready. Hence, Haggai's pas-
sion to rebuild the temple. From history it is apparent
that Zerubbabel never became the Messianic King as
Haggai believed he would. Instead, Zerubbabel dis-
appeared quite suddenly. It is assumed that upon hear-
ing of the kingly plans of Zerubbabel, the Persian rulers
became alarmed and imprisoned or killed him.
One other observation needs to be made regarding
Haggai. In his opposition toward the Samaritans
(2:10-14) can be seen the beginning of a rigid narrow-
ness and nationalism which was to become a character-
istic of postexilic Judaism.
Questions for Study
1. Why is Haggai so interested in rebuilding the
2. What great future did Haggai see for Zerubbabel?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 97
Zechariah is designated as the son of Berechlah and
the grandson of Iddo (1:1). At other places In the
Old Testament he Is designated simply as the son of
Iddo, with no mention of Berechlah (Ezra 5 :1 ; 6:14;
Nehemiah 12:16). The Insertion of Berechlah in this
book probably was done by a later editor who mistook
him for "Zechariah, son of Jeberechlah" mentioned in
Isaiah 8 :2.
Be that as It may, Zechariah's prophecy was contem-
porary with that of Haggai, but extending two years
longer. The beginning date definitely can be fixed In
November, 520 (1:1). The closing date is December
7, 518 (7:1). Of the fourteen chapters in the book
only the first eight should be regarded as the work of
Zechariah, son of Iddo. Chapters 9-14 are a later work,
and should be treated separately.
The main body of chapters 1-8 consists of a series
of eight visions and their interpretations:
( 1 ) 1 :7-17 is the vision of the four horsemen — each
on a different colored horse. These divine messengers
declare that even though there is no apparent sign of
the coming of the Messianic age the Temple in Jeru-
salem should be rebuilt, and the heathen nations feel
the wrath of God.
(2) 1 :1 8-21 is the vision of the four horns (represent-
98 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Ing heathen nations) and the four smiths who will des-
(3) 2:1-5 Is the vision of a man with a measuring line.
It teaches that Jerusalem can not have a wall because of
Its vast population. Furthermore, the city does not need
a wall because God will be ''as a wall of fire'' around
her. There follows an appeal to those In exile to re-
turn from Babylonia.
(4) 3 :1-10 Is the vision of the trial of the high priest,
Joshua. Dressed In filthy garments he is accused by
Satan, but Is acquitted by God and dressed In elegant
(5) 4:1-14 describes the golden candlestick; seven
lamps; seven pipes; and two olive trees. The lamps
symbolize the eyes of God; the two olive trees, the two
anointed ones — ^Joshua and Zerubbabel. ZerubbabePs
Importance Is enhanced by the fact that he has laid
the foundation of the new temple In Jerusalem and
that he will remain to complete the building.
(6) 5:1-4 portrays a flying scroll destroying the houses
of thieves and liars.
(7) 5:5-11 shows a woman In a barrel, symbolizing
wickedness, being carried to Babylonia by two winged
(8) 6:1-8 shows four chariots drawn by different
colored horses going In four directions to patrol the
Verses 9-15 are an historical appendix, greatly
changed and obliterated. The theme of It Is the crown-
ing of Zerubbabel as the Messiah by Zecharlah. As his-
tory knows, Zerubbabel's crowning was met with dis-
pleasure by the Persian rulers. He mysteriously dis-
appeared from the scene without ever occupying the
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 99
throne of David. To conceal this failure on the part
of Zerubbabel and Zechariah, the passage later was
changed and the name of Joshua substituted for Zerub-
Chapters 7 and 8 contain Zechariah's answer to
questions regarding fasting. He declares that fasting
has very little spiritual value, but the practice of
morality is all important. In 8:17 God seeks to bring
comfort to those who have become discouraged with
the continued postponement of the coming of the Mes-
siah. God declares that a great future awaits the Jews
provided they become upright in word and deed. Like
his contemporary Haggai, Zechariah must share part of
the responsibility for Judaism taking on a narrow ex-
clusiveness in postexilic times.
This section partly is based on historical facts and
partly apocalyptic. The interpretation of some of the
allegories, and the object of some of the oracles, never
has been discovered. For example, 11:4-17 contains a
description and threat against some particularly wicked
foreign nation which might have been easily recognized
then, but now is undefined.
The section closes (chapter 14) with a brilliant
description of the events which will accompany the
dreadful "Day of the Lord." With Zechariah, as with
other apocalypticism, it is essential to approach the
writing in the light of the contemporary situation. Only
in that way can the faith, hope and expectations of the
Jews be understood.
100 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Questions for Study
1. What physical improvements were taking place In
Jerusalem during Zecharlah's prophecy?
2. What was the explanation of the vision of a man
with a measuring line?
3. What was the reason for discouragement among
the Jews of Zechariah^s time?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 101
The name Malachi was given to this book by an
editor who believed that he had found the name of the
author at the beginning of chapter 3 — "My Messen-
ger" — malakhi. The date of the writing is about 450
B.C. — or at least before 444 since there is no refer-
ence to the reform work of Nehemiah which began
in that year .
Malachi faced a difficult situation. He wanted to
strengthen the feeble faith of the Hebrews. Since he
was not a man of brilliant insight his arguments sound
somewhat naive. In answer to those who felt that God
no longer loved them, Malachi points out that the Edo-
mites were in a worse condition than they were ( 1 :2-5 ) .
In answer to those who believed God winked at injus-
tice and allowed the wicked to prosper, Malachi con-
tends that God soon would separate the righteous
from the wicked (3:15-18).
Malachi believed that the spiritual and economic
misery of the people can be cured by correcting the
sin that had crept into the worship of God. Correct
procedures are vitally important to Malachi. Such a so-
lution is far different from that of Amos 300 years
earlier who envisioned God as demanding something
more than right ritual. Malachi is concerned about such
sins as robbing God of tithes and offerings (3 :18), and
about priests who offer blemished sacrifices at the altar
(1:6-2:9). Jewish men who divorce their wives to
marry Gentile women also receive Malachi's stern re-
102 THE OLD TESTAMENT
buke. Malachi believes that marriage is a covenant re-
lationship and not a matter of personal convenience.
The closing verses of the book (4:4-6) form the
conclusion to the "Book of the Twelve." It is a brief
summary of what the editor believed was the main
theme of the Book of the Twelve. The coming of the
Lord is preceded by a messenger who is none other than
Elijah the prophet. It was natural for Elijah to be the
one envisioned for this position since he had ascended
to heaven In a chariot, and therefore would still be
available for a return to earth.
Questions for Study
1. How does Malachi try to strengthen the waning
faith of the Jews?
2. Contrast Malachi and Amos in the kind of sins
which they denounced.
3. Who is to be the messenger preceding the coming
of the Lord?
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 103
THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA
In addition to the thirty nine books that compose
the Old Testament, there also is a group of fourteen
other books that often have been included in the Old
Testament because of their literary or historical value.
While Protestants usually have regarded their impor-
tance as secondary, these books have persisted through
the centuries. They were not present in the early He-
brew Scripture, but were included in the later Greek and
The apocryphal books, with one or two exceptions,
were a part of the Bible of the early Church,
for they were in the Greek translation known as the
Septuagint, which was used by the early Church. In
400 A. D. St. Jerome brought out his famous Latin
Vulgate translation, and included the apocryphal books
scattered through the rest of the Old Testament. It
was left to Martin Luther in 1534, eleven hundred
years after Jerome, to put all the apocryphal books
together at the end of the Old Testament. It remained
that way through the early English Bibles, including
the King James Version of 1611.
However, the Puritans of England and America dis-
approved of the apocryphal books, and requested copies
of the King James Version be printed without them.
Gradually, the books of the Apocrypha have disap-
peared from most Bibles. Today they are found mainly
in special translations or editions of the Bible. Also,
104 THE OLD TESTAMENT
they are included in the Old Testament used by the
Roman Catholic Church.
Written about 100 B. C, the major part of I Esdras
is based upon the books of Ezra-Nehemiah. Chapter I
gives a brief history leading up to the story. It begins
with a description of the elaborate preparation and
celebration of the Passover as ordered by King Josiah
(641-610 B. C). It declares that this Passover was
the greatest Passover celebrated since the days of
Samuel, There follows a brief account of Judah's strug-
gles against Egypt, her captivity by the Babylonians,
and finally her release by the Persians
Chapter 2 begins the main story. Its similarity to
the book of Ezra is quite obvious. As in the book of
Ezra, King Cyrus of Persia permits the Jews to re-
turn to Jerusalem to rebuild the city. The difficulties
of that building program are described. Enemies suc-
ceed in having the order suspended. Chapter 3 is the
story of King Darius proclaiming a literary contest
on the subject, "What is the strongest thing on earth?"
Three answers were given: the wind, the king, and
truth. Zerubbabel, who declared truth strongest, was
declared winner. He was granted permission to rescind
the order that stopped work on rebuilding Jerusalem.
The closing chapters (8 and 9) describe Ezra's grief
over the Jews' laxity in keeping the Law. Especially
was he horrified to find so many had married foreign
wives. After an impassioned plea against such practice,
many of the priests, levites and laymen gave up their
foreign wives and children. The book closes with the
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 105
celebration occasioned by Ezra's public reading of the
Law to the multitude gathered in Jerusalem.
This book was compiled from several writings from
65 B. C. to 120 A. D. Therefore, it is the latest of all
the apocryphal books of the Old Testament. It is quite
apocalyptical in nature, especially in chapters 3-14. It
does not have the historical quality of I Esdras. In-
deed, it is somewhat misleading to give both books the
same name because of their great differences.
Opening with Ezra the prophet preaching to his own
people in captivity, the book moves into apocalypticism
(chapter 3). Ezra is reminiscent of the wickedness of
men since the time of Adam. There follows a group of
questions and answers with the Lord. God declares to
Ezra that He has not revealed His judgment to all
men, but only to few men like Ezra (8:62). As in
much apocalypticism there are strange creatures who
arise and speak to the prophet. Chapter 1 1 describes
an eagle coming out of the sea with three heads and
twelve wings which covered all the earth. There fol-
lows an interpretation of the words spoken by the lion
and the eagle. The closing chapters are a bit more
realistic, concluding with an appeal not to fear or doubt,
for God is your guide.
Tobit is a popular story taken from the Jewish Dis-
persion in Egypt. It was written in the 3rd century
B. C. and was based upon some well known Egyptian
106 THE OLD TESTAMENT
Tobit Is greatly discouraged when he is blinded
(2:10). He prays to God for help. At the same time a
similar prayer for help is uttered by a woman, Sarah,
in Media, who lost seven husbands before she could
bear a child. The prayers of both Tobit and Sarah are
answered. Tobit was cured of his blindness, and Sarah
was given to Tobit's son, Tobias, as a wife (3:17).
The remainder of the book tells how those two miracles
were accomplished. Young Tobias went to Media
where he took Sarah for his wife. When he and his
bride returned home, he rubbed fish gall in his father's
eyes, as prescribed by an angel. Sight was restored.
There follows a prayer of thanksgiving from Tobit
(chapter 13) . The final chapter tells of Tobit's old age
and death. Tobias returned to the land of his father-
in-law, whose property he inherited and where he lived
long enough to hear the joyful report of the destruction
The setting of this story is during the reign of Nebu-
chadnezzar. Judith, a Jewish widow, succeeds in out-
witting and slaying one of Nebuchadnezzar's generals
who has been sent to plunder the land and force all
people to worship Nebuchadnezzar as a god. Written
during the 2nd century B. C, Judith is the legend of
King Nebuchadnezzar orders his commanding gen-
eral, Holofernes, to capture all foreign people and
to plunder their land. Holofernes and his army plunder
to the border of Judah. The Hebrews are mournful
as they visualize the inevitable defeat of their coun-
try. Judith enters the story in chapter 8. Irritated at
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 107
the lack of determination on the part of the people,
she declares that God will deliver them by her hand,
but that she can not tell them how it will be done.
Making her way to the enemy camp, Judith wins the
favor of Holofernes. She succeeds in getting him drunk
at a party. When he falls unconscious, Judith cuts off
his head and sends it back to Judah as proof that she
has accomplished her mission (13:8-11). The closing
chapter (16) contains a song of thanksgiving and a
final description of the fame of Judith both during her
lifetime and after her death.
ADDITIONS TO THE BOOK OF ESTHER
About 100 B C. this book was written to add some
details and make some changes in the book of Esther.
The authorization for Haman to exterminate all Jews
is given in greater detail. Likewise there is given a
more detailed description of the beauty of Queen
Esther and the response of the king when she entered
the royal throne to make her request of him.
A second letter from Artaxerxes, this time praising
the Jews and rescinding the order of Haman, is given
a fuller treatment. Finally, this additional material
closes with Mordecai interpreting Artaxerxes' dream.
The river represented Esther; the two dragons, Ar-
taxerxes and Haman; those who would destroy the
Jews, the heathen; and the nation that cried to God,
THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON
This is one of the more valuable books of the Apo-
crypha. Written about 6S B. C, its purpose was to
combat the radicalism of the book of Ecclesiastes. It
108 THE OLD TESTAMENT
will be remembered that Ecclesiastes begins and ends
in despair. It sees no hope or joy in life or in death.
The Wisdom of Solomon, however, declares that such
reasoning is unsound. *'Those who trust in Him will
understand the truth, and those who are faithful will
cling to Him in love, for His chosen will find favor
and mercy." (3:9). Furthermore, it asserts that God
is kind and true, longsuffering and merciful, and to
know His might is the root of immortality (15:1-3).
The closing chapters of the book show the punishment
of those who oppose the Jews, and the triumph of the
(THE WISDOM OF SIRACH)
Written about 180 B. C, Ecclesiasticus is a book of
proverbs similar in style to the book of Proverbs. It
begins by declaring that "all wisdom comes from the
Lord, and remains with Him forever." Many practical
instructions are given in short, concise statements such
as: *'Do not envy the glory of a sinner; for you do not
know what disaster awaits him" (9:11). *'A wise man's
knowledge abounds like a flood, and his counsel is like
a living spring." (21 :13).
Beginning with chapter 44, the book varies from its
course of random proverbs, and begins to praise fa-
mous men of old. There follows descriptive praise for
such men as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob, Aaron,
Levi, Caleb, Nathan, David, Elijah, Elisha, Hezekiah,
Josiah, Israel, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Zerubbabel. The
book closes (chapter 51) with a strong appeal for
righteousness and wisdom.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 109
THE BOOK OF BARUCH
This book is written under the assumed name of
Baruch, the private secretary of the prophet Jeremiah.
The sixth chapter sometimes is regarded as a separate
writing — "The Epistle of Jeremiah." Baruch con-
tains many exhortations to faith and denunciations of
idolatry. The greater part of the book was written in
the first century A. D. but was given the historical
setting of the Babylonian captivity when the captives in
Babylon learn that Jerusalem has been burned.
The first three chapters are addressed to the high
priest, Jehoiakim, in Jerusalem The exiles confess to
him that their afflction under Nebuchadnezzar and his
son, Belshazzar, has come on them because *'we have
been disobedient to the Lord our God, and we have
been neglectful in not obeying His voice." (1 :19) .
Chapters 4 and 5 are a change in mood from fatalism
to hope. "Take courage, Jerusalem, for He who named
you will comfort you. Those who did you harm and
rejoiced at your fall will be miserable." (4:31, 32).
"Arise, Jerusalem, and stand upon the height, and
look away to the east, and see your children gathered
from the setting of the sun to its rising, at the com-
mand of the Holy One, rejoicing that God has remem-
bered them." (S'S),
Chapter six is the "Epistle of Jeremiah," allegedly
written by the prophet to give instructions to the cap-
tives in Jerusalem who soon would be taken to Babylon.
He tells them that while they are in captivity they will
see gods of silver, gold and wood worshipped by the
Babylonians. He urges the Hebrews not to be deceived
into worshiping such idols because idols have no power
110 THE OLD TESTAMENT
whatsoever. The entire chapter points out in specific
terms the futility of pagan gods.
THE STORY OF SUSANNA
(SUSANNA AND THE ELDERS)
This is a first century B. C. addition to the Book of
Daniel. It was written to enlarge upon tlie power and
judgment of the hero. Susanna is described as the
righteous and beautiful wife of Joakim in Babylon.
Two of the Elders of the people were selected as
judges, and they would use Joakim's house as a court
in which to try cases. Seeing Susanna frequently, the
two Elders became greatly infatuated with her. Catch-
ing her alone in the garden, they give her the choice of
submitting to their desires or of being accused by them
of having illicit relations with another man. Her right-
eousness will not allow her to submit to their desires,
so she takes her chances at being falsely accused in
court. As she was about to be put to death, God heard
her cry and sent Daniel to rescue her. By examining
the two Elders separately, Daniel is able to prove
their testimony to be conflicting and false. Susanna was
saved, and Daniel's reputation was increased in the
estimation of the people.
SONG OF THE THREE HOLY CHILDREN
This is another addition to the book of Daniel. It
usually was inserted right after the 23rd verse of the
third chapter of Daniel. As can be surmised, the three
holy children were the three Hebrew friends of Daniel :
Hananiah, Mishel and Azariah. (Usually known as
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego). The story begins
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 111
with the three of them In the fiery furnace, as de-
scribed in the third chapter of Daniel. Azariah prays
to God for deliverance. They are unharmed by the
flames, and in joyful praise all three of them bless the
Lord for his goodness to them. They call upon every
part of God's creation also to sing praises to God
BEL AND THE DRAGON
This short chapter of 42 verses contains three brief
stories of the wisdom and skill of Daniel. Verses 1-22
tell how Daniel proved to the Babylonian king that the
food which supposedly was being devoured by Bel, the
idol, actually was being eaten by the priests and their
families. By scattering ashes over the floor, Daniel
catches the footprints of men, women, and children.
Verses 23-27 relate how Daniel, without using
sword or stick, killed a serpent which was regarded as
a god. Making lumps of pitch and hair, he fed them to
the serpent, causing its death.
Verses 28-42 describe how Daniel was saved from
being devoured by lions. The prophet, Habakkuk, in
Judea, miraculously was transported by God to Baby-
lon, carrying a bowl of special food for Daniel. Daniel
eats it and is saved from death. In his place the king
throws the men who tried to bring about Daniel's
THE PRAYER OF MANASSEH
This is the shortest of all books of the Apocrypha.
Written in the 1st century B. C. it was intended to be
a supplement to the account of Manasseh's conversion
112 THE OLD TESTAMENT
(II chron. 33:13). Parts of this prayer have been
picked up and used in Christian liturgy. The prayer
mainly contains Manasseh's open confession of his
sins, and a plea for forgiveness. It was intended to
show the humble spirit which Manasseh exhibited in
the presence of God, and the transformation that fol-
This is one of the best sources for the period from
175 B. C. to 135 B. C. It describes with accuracy the
Maccabean revolt 'down to the death of Simon Macca-
bee in 135 B. C. Beginning with the conquest of Alexan-
der the Great, the historian traces events after his
death — especially the persecutions under Antiochus
Epiphanes. Chapter 2 begins the heroic work of
Mattathias and 5 sons: John, Simon, Judas, Eliazer,
and Jonathan. These are known as the Maccabee
brothers. After the death of their father, Judas be-
came the leader of his brothers in the war for inde-
pendence (3 :12).
It would be too involved to describe the exploits of
the Maccabean rebellion. The writer of I Maccabees
traces the rebellion through the relatively peaceful
and established reign of Simon, and closes with the be-
ginning of John's leadership after the death of his
father, Simon. It is of interest to note that the na-
tional independence of the Jews at that time was their
last national independence until the recent founding of
the state of Israel after World War II.
ITS INTENT AND CONTENT 113
II Maccabees is a mixture of history and fiction. It
describes the period leading up to the Maccabean re-
volt under Mattathias, and the rule of Judas to 161
B.C. The author of the book describes his work as
being an abridgment of a much longer work written by
Jason of Cyrene (2:23). The book closes with the
defeat and death of Nicanor at the hands of Judas
and his army.
Questions for Study
1. Compare the Roman Catholic and Protestant eval-
uation of the Apocrypha.
2. What did Martin Luther do with the Apocrypha?
3. Identify the following: Septuagint, St. Jerome,
4. What was Judith's heroic act?
5. What is the ''Epistle of Jeremiah?'' What instruc-
tion and appeal does it give?
6. Describe any two of the additions to the book of
7. What is the historical value of I Maccabees?
A Study Guide To The Old Testament
"The Old Testament, Its Intent and Content" is writ-
ten for the person who wants to know why the Old Testa-
ment was written, and what each Book tries to tell. It might
be described as a summary of each Book. The briefest
summary consists only of a few sentences; the longest, only
a few pages. The book is not meant to be read as a sub-
stitute for the Old Testament, but rather as a preview to
what will be found in each Book.
The books of the Old Testament are a widely varied
group, usually divided into three main divisions: Law,
Prophets, and the Writings. The books of the Law consist
of the five books. Genesis through Deuteronomy, commonly
called the Pentateuch. The Prophetic books are subdivided
into two groups, the former and the latter prophets. The
last group, called Writings, is comprised of a miscellany of
independent works, including short stories and the Psalms.
In addition, the Apocryphal books, which seldom appear
in Bibles today, but which the author feels are a tremen-
dously important part of the Bible, are also summarized.
The questions at the end of each chapter are designed to
lift up the essential elements of the Book.
The purpose of this book is to serve as a guide for the
better understanding of the intent and content of the books
of the Old Testament. It does not pretend to present a
detailed study of the Bible, but is content to be used as a
guide book for students and similar groups of people who
desire to attempt more than just a casual reading of the
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